U.S. gasoline prices averaged $2.43 a gallon Tuesday, up a penny from last Monday’s level in a surprise increase attributed to refining issues in the Great Lakes region.
About half of the 50 states experienced a gas price increase last week as outages at Exxon Mobil’s Joliet refinery and Marathon’s Robinson, Illinois, refinery. The Exxon Mobil issue may not get resolved until scheduled maintenance begins later in February or March.
Crude oil inventories fell by 6.5 million barrels likely due to a desire by refiners to lower year-end inventories in preparation for tax season. Gasoline stockpiles rose by 1.2 million barrels, a modest amount due to higher demand from holiday travelers.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said:
The Great Lakes has seen a flurry of gas price increases over the last week as several refinery issues have surfaces, pulling the national average up nearly single-handedly. Without such ill-timed disruptions, we’d see a plentiful portion of falling pump prices, but now, the bitter taste of rising prices during the holiday lingers for many. But with the New Year set to roll in accompanied by a strong cold front, I’d expect gasoline demand to weaken, thus softening the outlook for gas prices in the weeks ahead and eventually delivering lower gas prices. Offering a brief glimpse into 2018: motorists won’t be loving what they see, but the devil’s in the details.
States where prices moved most last week were: Indiana (up nine cents); Illinois and Ohio (up eight cents); New Mexico (down seven cents); Michigan and Wisconsin (up six cents); Colorado (down five cents); Kentucky and West Virginia (up five cents); and Missouri (up four cents).
States with the lowest average prices last week included Alabama ($2.16); Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma ($2.17); Mississippi ($2.18); South Carolina ($2.19); Texas ($2.20); and Kansas, Louisiana and Tennessee ($2.21).
The highest average prices per gallon last week were reported from Hawaii ($3.29); Alaska ($3.10); California ($3.07); Washington ($2.88); Oregon ($2.73); Pennsylvania ($2.69); Nevada ($2.66); Connecticut ($2.64); New York ($2.63); and Montana ($2.59).
West Texas Intermediate crude oil for February delivery traded up about 2.3% in the noon hour Tuesday at $59.81, while Brent for February delivery traded at $66.75. The price differential (spread) between WTI and Brent crude rose by about 80 cents to $6.94 a barrel week over week.