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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Move Higher While Natural Gas Plunges
by Tom Moeller  March 13, 2012

Regular gasoline prices rose another four cents last week to $3.83 per gallon. Reduced seasonal demand typically fosters lower gasoline prices this time of year, and they haven't followed the norm. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular unleaded held steady at a record $3.94 for the third consecutive week. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.08 versus $3.03 averaged last week.

Natural gas prices also have been quite weak and fell twenty cents last week to $2.24 per mmbtu and remained down 41.0% y/y. Yesterday prices fell further to $2.16 and were the lowest since 2001, down from the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil slipped last week to $106.31 but still was up sharply from the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the price held at $106.34. Prices peaked at $113.93 last April. Brent crude rose last week to $126.57 per barrel and increased further yesterday to a new high of $127.34.

Gasoline demand fell 7.8% 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 7.6% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 1.20% 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 03/12/12 03/05/12 02/27/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.83 3.79 3.72 7.3 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 106.31 107.49 107.43 2.5 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.24 2.44 2.63 -41.0 3.99 4.40 3.95
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