U.S. retail gasoline prices slipped last week to a national average of $2.52 a gallon, down a penny from the prior week. Diesel fuel also ticked down by a penny a gallon to $2.93. Month over month the price dropped by 4 cents a gallon but remain nearly 23 cents a gallon higher year over year. Last month the national average was $2.57 while the year-ago average was $2.30.
Falling crude oil inventories and steady prices for crude remained the rule for the week ended March 9. Refinery utilization remained at around 88% as refiners perform scheduled maintenance and make the switch from winter- to summer-grade fuel.
As more seasonal maintenance begins at U.S. refineries over the next few weeks, utilization rates will decline and gasoline production will slip as well. This typically leads to a small rise in pump prices.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at Gasbuddy, said:
Oil prices remain volatile yet several dollars off recent highs. Gasoline prices remain in somewhat of a limbo as a result, with a mixed bag at pumps acrossgas the United States. Thus far, we have seen a market that’s lacked solid upward movement when it usually sees exactly that. This could lend weight to oil prices being too high, but at the same time, we continue to see if any major disruptions occur at U.S. refineries to offset any devaluation in the price of oil. So far the balance is in the middle, but threats remain in the months ahead- we’re still expecting a surge, so motorists aren’t off the hook by any means yet.
According to Gasbuddy, states where prices moved most last week were: Michigan (up 7 cents); California, Indiana, and Ohio (up 4 cents); Kentucky and Florida (down 4 cents); and Georgia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado (down 3 cents).
States with the lowest average prices last week included:South Carolina ($2.24); Mississippi and Alabama ($2.25); Missouri ($2.26); Arkansas ($2.27); Texas ($2.28); Tennessee ($2.29); Kentucky, Louisiana, and Oklahoma ($2.31).
The highest average prices per gallon last week were reported from Hawaii ($3.44); California ($3.36); Alaska ($3.11); Washington ($2.98); Oregon ($2.88); Nevada ($2.84); Pennsylvania ($2.78); New York ($2.70); and Connecticut ($2.68).
WTI crude oil for April delivery traded down about 1% Monday afternoon at $61.37 while Brent for May delivery traded at $64.99. The price differential (spread) between WTI and Brent crude was unchanged at $3.62 a barrel week over week.