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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Price Is Roughly Stable but Crude Oil Moves Higher
by Tom Moeller  November 1, 2011

The modest improvement in the U.S. economy has helped slow the earlier decline in petroleum prices. The pump price for regular gasoline slipped one penny last week to $3.45 per gallon but was two cents higher than early-October. Prices remained down versus May when they averaged $3.91. Retail prices usually start to ease this time of year with reduced seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. As a result, the adjusted gasoline price rose to $3.58 per gallon, up seventeen cents in the last four weeks. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded slipped to $2.69, down five cents from last week's average.

Crude oil prices moved higher last week. Light Sweet Crude averaged $92.32 versus $79.71 averaged during the first week of October. Yesterday prices were even higher at $93.19. They remained down from the late-April peak of $113.93. Brent crude remained relatively expensive versus WTI and yesterday sold for $109.76 per barrel. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Finally, natural gas prices ticked up last week to $3.62 per mmbtu, up 9.5% y/y. Prices remained lower versus last year's early-January peak of $6.50. Yesterday, prices held at $3.62. These figures compare to a 0.2% y/y gain in the September CPI for piped gas service.

Gasoline demand slipped 2.7% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, fell 2.6% y/y but distillate demand rose 7.5%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 5.4% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

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 10/31/11 10/24/11 10/17/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.45 3.46 3.48 23.0 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 92.32 86.71 85.56 12.6 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 3.62 3.61 3.49 9.5 4.40 3.95 8.88
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