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Economy in Brief

U.S. Petroleum Prices Reach Three Month High
by Tom Moeller  August 21, 2012

The summer driving season is in full gear.The pump price of regular gasoline rose two cents last week to $3.74 per gallon, the highest level since early May. Haver Analytics' seasonally-adjusted price for regular rose another seven cents w/w to $3.56 per gallon. This seasonally adjusted price is lower than the actual because gas prices typically rise with the summer driving season.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil is helping fuel the gas price increase. It jumped to $94.42 per barrel last week, up from the late-June weekly low of $80.92. Yesterday, the cost of crude rose further to $95.97 per barrel. Prices peaked at $113.93 in April, 2011. Brent crude increased last week to $115.44 per barrel but slipped to $115.10 yesterday.

Natural gas prices fell last week to $2.77 per mmbtu and yesterday prices slipped further to $2.73, roughly half the early-January 2010 peak of $6.50.

Reduced driving and improved fuel economy lowered the demand for gasoline by 2.8% y/y last week. The demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, fell 8.4% y/y and distillate demand was off 2.5% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products were unchanged y/y. That comparison was improved versus the 5.0% y/y 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 08/20/12 08/13/12 08/06/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.74 3.72 3.65 4.6 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 94.42 93.09 89.06 10.6 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.77 2.93 3.12 -30.7 3.99 4.40 3.95
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