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Economy in Brief

U.S. Energy Prices Are Driven Higher
by Tom Moeller  February 22, 2012

Tensions in the Mideast are having a further effect driving energy prices upward. The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil jumped last week to $101.80 and remained up sharply from $79.71, the average during the first week of October. Yesterday, the price increased further to $105.84. Prices peaked at $113.93 in late-April. Brent crude rose last week to $119.92 per barrel and was $121.87 yesterday. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

The pump price for regular gasoline rose last week to $3.59 per gallon which was up thirty cents versus early-January. Retail prices usually decline this time of year with reduced seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. As a result, the adjusted gasoline price was $3.84 last week. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.07 versus last week's average of $3.02.

Gasoline demand recently fell 6.4% on average versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil declined by one-quarter y/y and distillate demand was off 2.6% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 2.5% year-to-year compared to a 10.0% rise during mid-2009.

Natural gas prices increased last week to $2.53 per mmbtu, which was down roughly one-third y/y. Yesterday prices rose further to $2.62 but were lower versus the early-January, 2010 peak of $6.50.

The energy price data are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY database. The daily figures are in DAILY and the gasoline demand figures are in OILWKLY.

Weekly Price 02/20/12 02/13/12 02/06/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.59 3.52 3.48 12.6 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 101.80 98.51 97.81 19.3 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.53 2.51 2.47 -34.9 3.99 4.40 3.95
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