Since the beginning of July, gasoline pump prices have been on a steady march higher, following rising crude prices, which are rising primarily because traders are betting on more government stimulus in Europe, China, Japan and the United States.
In the U.S., a fire at a Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) refinery in California has reduced output there to about 60% of capacity. Lower refinery output also has been reported at refineries owned by BP PLC (NYSE: BP), Sunoco Inc. (NYSE: SUN), Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) and privately held Sinclair Oil Corp.
Gasoline inventories have been falling, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, but are expected to pick up again as refiners begin to produce fall and winter grade fuel. Ahead of today’s EIA petroleum status report, analysts expected another inventory decline of 1 million barrels.
Oddly enough, though, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll ranks gasoline prices 10th out of 10 factors influencing voters who are evaluating President Obama’s job performance and the country’s direction. According to the poll, health care, the economy and jobs are the three major voter concerns. One of the pollsters noted:
People talk a lot about how gas prices drive attitudes, but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of impact either on Obama’s job approval or how people see the country going. People seem to see gas prices as a separate issue the government doesn’t have as much control over. … People really do seem to understand how little control the president has over the price of gasoline.
According to GasBuddy.com, the average retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. is $3.70, compared with $3.69 a week ago and $3.49 a month ago. One year ago gasoline cost $3.59 per gallon.