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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Continue Higher
by Tom Moeller  March 6, 2012

It's been a relentless trudge upward. Pump prices for regular gasoline increased seven cents last week to $3.79 per gallon and were up fifty 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 held steady at a record $3.94 last week. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.99 versus $3.10 averaged last week.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil moved slightly higher last week to $107.49 and was up sharply from the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the price slipped to 106.72. Prices peaked at $113.93 last April. Brent crude also rose last week to $124.06 per barrel and was $126.74 yesterday. Prices peaked last year at $126.21.

Natural gas prices fell nearly twenty cents last week to $2.44 per mmbtu and remained down roughly one-third y/y. Yesterday prices fell further to $2.31 and were down sharply versus the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

Gasoline demand fell 6.7% last week on average versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, was off by nearly one-half y/y and distillate demand was off 5.1% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 1.2% 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.

Weekly Price 03/05/12 02/27/12 02/20/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.79 3.72 3.59 7.8 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 107.49 107.43 101.80 6.5 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.44 2.63 2.53 -36.1 3.99 4.40 3.95
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