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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Continue Higher But Crude Oil Slips
by Tom Moeller  April 3, 2012

The rise has been relentless. Pump prices for regular gasoline rose another two cents last week to $3.94 per gallon, their highest since last May. The gain has been seventy cents (22%) since year-end. Reduced seasonal demand typically fosters lower gasoline prices this time of year, but prices haven't followed the norm and stayed high. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular unleaded dipped just two cents from its record $3.95. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.25 versus $3.28 averaged last week.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil slipped last week to $105.13 and compared to the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the cost of crude held at $105.23. Prices peaked at $113.93 last April. Brent crude also slipped last week to $124.38 per barrel but recovered to a new high of $125.89 yesterday.

Natural gas prices continued lower last week to $2.06 per mmbtu, down 52.1% y/y. Yesterday's price of $1.91 per mmbtu was down from the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

Reduced driving and improved fuel economy lowered the demand for gasoline by 6.1% y/y last week. The demand for residual fuel oil demand, used for heating, also was down 38.9% y/y with near-record warm temperatures. Distillate demand was off 8.6% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products slipped 0.6% 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.

Weekly Price 04/02/12 03/26/12 03/19/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.94 3.92 3.87 7.0 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 105.13 106.56 106.13 -0.4 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.06 2.14 2.11 -52.1 3.99 4.40 3.95
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