Since February 8, the pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline has risen from around $3.26 to nearly $3.37, with more than half of the rise coming last week. That is the highest price for a gallon of gas since last October, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
For the year to date, the increase is not as bad, at about $0.05 per gallon, and compared with last February a gallon of gasoline is $0.364 cheaper. The big difference is that the closure of two Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) refineries threw the market into a tizzy for about three months until the impact of the closures was sorted out.
The sharp rise in the past week and a half have tracked the rise in West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices, which have moved solidly above $100 a barrel on Tuesday and traded at around $101.40 in mid-morning action. Gasoline for March delivery rose as high as $2.837 a gallon on the NYMEX Tuesday morning, a level last seen in late December.
Two refineries along the Gulf Coast are running at reduced rates, according to Bloomberg News, as maintenance work begins at a Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), aka Petrobras, refinery in Pasadena, Texas, and a Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Cold weather also is having an impact, which along with a rosier view of the global economy is also a contributing factor.
Dwindling supplies as refiners head into the spring turnaround and maintenance season have added to the pressure on prices that we normally see this time of year.