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Economy in Brief

U.S. Petroleum Prices Continue Downward
by Tom Moeller  May 15, 2012

The pump price of regular gasoline again fell four cents last week to $3.75 per gallon. The last six weeks of decline totals nineteen cents (4.7%) and reflects worries about economic growth in Europe and abundant supplies. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular declined eight cents to $3.50 per gallon. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.96 versus $2.95 averaged last week.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil fell sharply last week to $96.99 yet remained up sharply versus the low of $79.71 this past October. Yesterday, the cost of crude fell to $94.78 per barrel. Prices peaked at $113.93 last April. Brent crude declined last week to $116.73 per barrel and fell further to $111.45 yesterday.

Natural gas prices rebounded further last week to $2.33 per mmbtu but were still down 44.1% y/y. Yesterday, prices rose further to $2.41 but remained off from the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

Reduced driving and improved fuel economy lowered the demand for gasoline by 3.2% y/y last week. The demand for residual fuel oil demand, used for heating, fell 18.2% y/y and distillate demand declined 1.2% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 0.4% year-to-year. That comparison was improved versus the 5.0% decline this past fall.

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 05/14/12 05/07/12 04/30/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.75 3.79 3.83 -5.2 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 96.99 103.46 103.97 -3.6 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.33 2.25 2.00 -44.1 3.99 4.40 3.95
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