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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Price Rise Is Relentless
by Tom Moeller  March 27, 2012

Pump prices for regular gasoline rose another five cents last week to $3.92 per gallon, their highest since last May. Reduced seasonal demand typically fosters lower gasoline prices this time of year, but they haven't followed the norm. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular unleaded ticked up to a record $3.95. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.31 versus $3.23 averaged last week.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil ticked up last week to $106.56 and compared to the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the cost of crude rose further $107.03. Prices peaked at $113.93 last April. Brent crude fell last week to $124.50 per barrel but recovered to $125.80 yesterday.

Natural gas prices rose modestly last week to $2.14 per mmbtu but fell 48.3% y/y. Yesterday prices were $2.17, still nearly the lowest since 2001 and down from the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

Demand for gasoline fell 7.8% y/y last week to nearly its lowest level in roughly ten years. The decline reflects fewer miles driven as well as a rise this year in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards to 33.3 miles per gallon for passenger cars from the low of 27.5. They're slated to rise to 34.2 MPG next year. Also falling with the record warm temperatures were residual fuel oil demand, used for heating, down 46.1% y/y, and distillate demand, off 8.4% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products slipped 0.8% 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. The CAFE standard are in the SURVEYS database.

Weekly Price 03/26/12 03/19/12 03/12/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.92 3.87 3.83 9.0 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 106.56 106.13 106.31 2.0 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.14 2.11 2.24 -48.3 3.99 4.40 3.95
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