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Economy in Brief

U.S. Energy Prices Fall With Lower Demand
by Tom Moeller  April 24, 2012

The pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline fell a nickel last week to $3.87. Nevertheless, the current level remained up sixty four cents (20%) since year-end. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular fell eight cents to $3.76 per gallon, the fourth consecutive week down. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.12 versus $3.16 averaged last week.

Natural gas prices fell again last week to $1.86 per mmbtu, down 56.4% y/y. Yesterday, prices stabilized at $1.92 but were off from the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50. With mild Winter temperatures and reduced demand, the quantity of natural gas in storage increased 55.8% y/y.

Reduced driving and improved fuel economy lowered the demand for gasoline by a lessened 2.8% y/y last week. The demand for residual fuel oil demand, used for heating, fell 7.1% y/y while distillate demand was off 0.5% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products ticked up 0.4% year-to-year. That comparison was improved, however, compared to the -5.0% figures this past Fall.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil increased last week to $103.02 and remained up sharply versus the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the cost of crude was $103.11 per barrel. Prices peaked at $113.93 last April. Brent crude fell last week to $117.24 per barrel and fell further to $116.41 yesterday.

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.

Credit: A Starring Role in the Downturn from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

Weekly Price 04/23/12 04/16/12 04/09/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.87 3.92 3.94 -0.2 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 103.02 102.53 103.51 -6.0 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 1.86 1.93 1.98 -56.4 3.99 4.40 3.95
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