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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Rise With Seasonal Pressures
by Tom Moeller  April 22, 2014

The coming of better weather after a rough winter prompts drivers to take to the road. That helped push the price for a gallon of regular gasoline to $3.68 last week, up 4.2% y/y. Prices, nevertheless, remained below the $3.78 per gallon peak reached in February of last year. To account for this seasonal volatility, Haver Analytics constructs factors for adjustment of pump prices. The adjusted cost of gasoline rose to $3.46 per gallon last week but has been moving lower since the end of December.

Lending further support to gasoline prices has been the combination of firming demand and diminishing inventories. Gasoline demand increased 4.6% in early April while inventories were off 5.2% y/y. The demand for all petroleum products declined 1.7% y/y last week. Residual fuel oil needs, used for heating, declined 38.4% y/y while distillate demand fell 1.4% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 1.7% y/y.

Seasonal and other forces have raised crude oil prices. The per barrel cost of WTI crude oil increased last week to $103.95 (18.2% y/y) but remained below the $108.67 high in early September. The seasonally adjusted price of $96.97 per barrel is at the low end of its range since mid-2013. Brent crude oil prices jumped last week to $109.09 (11.1% y/y) and yesterday were $109.68 per barrel.

Natural gas prices declined last week to $4.44 per mmbtu (11.3% y/y), the lowest level in two months.

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 petroleum demand and inventory figures are in OILWKLY.

Weekly Energy Prices 04/21/14 04/14/14 04/07/14 Y/Y% 2013 2012 2011
Retail Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.68 3.65 3.60 4.2 3.51 3.62 3.52
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl., WSJ) 103.95 102.72 100.46 18.2 97.95 94.20 95.14
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu, LA) 4.44 4.55 6.13 11.3 3.73 2.75 3.99
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