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Economy in Brief

U.S. Petroleum Prices Surge
by Tom Moeller  April 12, 2011

Petroleum prices have nowhere to go but up. Last week, the pump price for regular gasoline jumped eleven cents to $3.79 per gallon, the highest level since September, 2008 and more-than-double the December, 2008 low of $1.61. Typically, pump prices decline this time of year due to lessened seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. The adjusted gasoline price rose further last week to $3.73 per gallon. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline slipped to $3.11 from an average $3.12 last week.

Crude oil prices also jumped last week to $109.75 for a barrel of WTI, also the highest since September, 2008. The price compares to the 2008 weekly low of $32.37. Yesterday prices held roughly steady at $109.92 per barrel. Brent crude oil prices, however, have been relatively strong rising to $126.36 yesterday from $122.04 last week.

Higher prices certainly can affect demand. Gasoline demand fell 1.2% in the latest week versus last year. The demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, fell 0.5% and distillate demand rose 0.9% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products slipped 0.4% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Finally, natural gas prices fell w/w to $4.16 per mmbtu. Yesterday, prices fell further to $4.06 and remained down from last year's early-January high of $6.50.

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. 

What Are the Implications of Rising Commodity Prices for Inflation and Monetary Policy? from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here .

Weekly Price 4/11/11 4/4/11 3/28/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.79 3.68 3.60 32.6 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 109.75 105.54 104.52 27.7 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.16 4.29 4.14 4.6 4.40 3.95 8.88
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