EIA Forecasts Lower 2017 Gasoline Pump Prices

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Tuesday released the latest update to its Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO). The EIA is forecasting an average U.S. pump price for 2017 of $2.32 per gallon of regular gasoline, down 6 cents from the previous forecast. During the 2017 summer driving season (April through September) a gallon of regular gas is forecast to cost $2.38, up 15 cents compared with last summer.

Crude oil production estimates call for an average of 9.3 million barrels a day in 2017, flat with last month’s forecast. 2016 production averaged 8.9 million barrels a day. The EIA lowered its 2018 production forecast from 10.01 million barrels a day to 9.9 million barrels. The reduced forecast is likely due to weak prices.

The July report also changes to the EIA’s earlier estimates for crude oil and refined product pricing for 2017. WTI crude oil averaged $43.33 a barrel in 2016 and is forecast to rise to an average of $48.95 in 2017, down $1.83 a barrel compared with last month’s estimate for 2017. The average price for Brent crude is forecast to rise from $43.74 in 2016 to $50.79 this year, down $1.90  from the June estimate. WTI crude is forecast to average $49.58 a barrel in 2018, while Brent is forecast at $51.58. Both estimates were lowered by $4.03 a barrel month over month.

Commercial crude oil stockpiles are expected to close the year at 476.9 million barrels, up 1.3 million barrels from the previous estimate. Stockpiles are expected to rise to 482.8 million barrels by the end of next year.

Regarding the global rebalancing of the crude oil market the EIA said:

Uncertainty remains regarding the duration of, and adherence to, the current OPEC production cuts, which could influence prices in either direction. Also, the U.S. tight oil sector continues to be dynamic, and quickly evolving trends in this sector could affect both current prices and expectations for future prices. However, lasting upward and downward price movements could be limited over the next year because U.S. tight oil producers have locked in higher production levels at the higher oil prices seen in early 2017.

WTI for August delivery traded up about 1.5% at around $45.05 after touching a low of $43.83 earlier Tuesday morning. Brent crude for September delivery traded up about 1.4% at $47.54 after posting an intra-day low of $46.29 earlier. For the year to date, the price of a barrel of WTI is down nearly 21% and the price of Brent crude is down more than 20% per barrel.