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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Jump To Record High
by Tom Moeller  February 28, 2012

If gasoline prices seem high, they are. Seasonally adjusted prices reached a record high last week. Pump prices for regular gasoline increased another thirteen cents last week to $3.72 per gallon and were up forty three cents versus early-January. Moreover, retail prices typically decline this time of year with reduced seasonal demand. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular unleaded jumped to a record $3.94 last week. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.14 versus $3.02 averaged two weeks ago.

Tensions in the Mideast continue to have their effect driving petroleum prices upward. The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil jumped last week to $107.43 and was up sharply from the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the price increased further to $108.56. Prices peaked at $113.93 in late-April. Brent crude rose last week to $123.38 per barrel and was $125.07 yesterday. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Natural gas prices increased ten cents last week to $2.63 per mmbtu. However, that still was down roughly one-third y/y. Yesterday prices fell back to $2.56 and were lower versus the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

Gasoline demand recently fell 6.1% on average versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, declined forty-two percent y/y and distillate demand was off 5.9% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 1.6% year-to-year compared to a 10.0% rise during mid-2009.

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.

Have Rising Oil Prices Become a Greater Threat to Price Stability from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City is available here.

Weekly Price 02/27/12 02/20/12 02/13/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.72 3.59 3.52 10.0 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 107.43 101.80 98.51 12.0 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.63 2.53 2.51 -31.5 3.99 4.40 3.95
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