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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline And Crude Oil Prices Move Lower
by Tom Moeller December 20, 2011

Energy prices were under broad-based pressure last week. The pump price for regular gasoline dropped six cents to $3.23 per gallon. Prices remained the lowest since February when they averaged $3.21. Retail prices usually decline 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 fell five cents to $3.62 per gallon. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.52 versus last week's average of $2.56.

Crude oil prices exhibited weakness following the prior week's strength. The price for a barrel of light sweet crude fell w/w to $95.79 but remained up sharply from $79.71 averaged during the first week of October. Yesterday, the price fell further to $93.88. Prices peaked at $113.93 in late-April. Brent crude fell last week to $106.18 per barrel and was $104.74 yesterday. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Natural gas prices have been under notable downward pressure of late. The price fell last week to $3.09 per mmbtu, down roughly one-quarter y/y. Prices remained lower versus last year's early-January peak of $6.50 and yesterday were $3.03.

Gasoline demand recently fell 4.5% on average versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, declined 14.4% y/y but distillate demand rose 1.9%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 3.3 % 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 12/19/11 12/12/11 12/05/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.23 3.29 3.29 8.3 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 95.79 100.10 99.90 8.5 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 3.09 3.40 3.37 -27.0 4.40 3.95 8.88
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