US Gasoline Price Remains High but Did Not Rise Last Week

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U.S. retail gasoline prices rose last week in most states, but the national average did not increase from the prior week’s level of $2.54 for a gallon of regular gas. Month over month, the price rose nearly nine cents and is more than 22 cents a gallon higher year over year. Last month the national average was $2.44, while the year-ago average was $2.31.

Among the 50 states, 38 experienced gas price increases last week. Large drops in the pump price in several Midwestern states offset smaller rises in other states.

Crude oil inventories have fallen by almost 73 million barrels over the past 12 months, largely due to stronger demand. Refinery utilization dipped from 95% in the prior week to 93% last week. This could be signaling the beginning — if a little earlier than usual — of the semiannual refinery maintenance and turnaround period.

Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said:

After several weeks of rising gasoline prices, it appears that perhaps the tide has turned and the bigger increases have started to fade. Oil prices remain near multi-year highs but do show some signs of buckling, at least slightly, but for motorists, we have not and may not see sizable relief just yet. Great Lakes refinery issues continue to flare up with no warning and gas prices there may continue to be more volatile in coming weeks. Meanwhile, total U.S. oil inventories stand 127 million barrels lower than a year ago, which has led gas prices to these seasonally high levels. What continues to impress is the large spread in prices between stations nearby, even as gas prices remain somewhat low, unsuspecting motorists have seen price differences of 10 to as much as 50 cents per gallon between neighboring stations in some large cities

States where prices moved most last week were: Michigan (down 11 cents); Indiana (down nine cents); Illinois and Ohio (down six cents); Florida (up five cents); Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Louisiana (up four cents); and New Mexico (down four cents).

States with the lowest average prices last week included Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas ($2.30);  South Carolina ($2.31); Arkansas ($2.32); Oklahoma ($2.33); Tennessee and Louisiana ($2.36); and Wyoming ($2.37).

The highest average prices per gallon last week were reported from Hawaii ($3.35); California ($3.18); Alaska ($3.12); Washington ($2.91); Pennsylvania ($2.84); Oregon ($2.77); Nevada ($2.75); Connecticut and New Jersey ($2.70); and New York ($2.62).

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil for March delivery traded up about 0.6% in the noon hour Monday at $63.71, while Brent for March delivery traded at $69.10. The price differential (spread) between WTI and Brent crude narrowed by nearly just three cents to $5.39 a barrel week over week.