Energy Economy

Gas Prices Rise Again Despite Trump Stepping on the Tweet Brakes

U.S. retail gasoline pump price increases moderated again last week, rising by just 1.3 cents a gallon nationally to average $2.89. Falling prices for crude oil through last week were topped by a sharp plunge Monday following the perceived threat from President Trump’s hard-line stance reiterated in two tweets sent out on Sunday.

Trump’s Sunday tweets raised concerns that new tariffs would slow an already sluggish global economy and prices for crude oil dipped by nearly $2 a barrel to nearly $60 for West Texas Intermediate crude oil. The market has since bounced higher to post a gain of around 1% and WTI for June delivery traded at about $62.60 Monday afternoon. A pipeline shutdown in Nigeria may be largely responsible for the increase.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, commented in a press release, “Oil prices may see another weekly loss along with wholesale gasoline prices on the worry that perhaps a trade deal is not as close as anticipated, risking the recent growth in the U.S. economy and potentially leading to lower oil demand.”

DeHaan continued, “For now, I believe we’re close to seeing gas prices peak in the next few weeks or so in most of the U.S., and barring any future unexpected outages. I think most the country has seen the risk of big price increases melt away.”

Retail gas prices rose in about half the 50 states last week. The most common price for a gallon of regular gas dipped to $2.79 a gallon. Gas at the most expensive 10% of U.S. gas stations averaged $3.98 while prices at the least expensive 10% of gas stations averaged $2.44. The median price at all stations was $2.77.

At the same time last month, gas prices averaged $2.75, about 13 cents below the current price. A year ago the national average price was about $2.81, 6 cents higher than the most recent price.

California drivers are paying $4.11 a gallon for gas this morning, with drivers in Hawaii ($3.76), Nevada ($3.50), Washington ($3.49), and Alaska ($3.42) rounding out the five states with the highest prices. Drivers in Oregon, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Connecticut are also paying more than $3 a gallon.

At the other end of the spectrum, drivers in Alabama ($2.50), Mississippi ($2.50), Louisiana ($2.51), South Carolina ($2.53), and Arkansas ($2.54) are paying the least for gas.

WTI crude oil for June delivery traded up about 0.9% Monday afternoon at $62.54 while Brent for July delivery traded at $71.44, up about 0.8%. The price differential (spread) between front-month WTI and Brent crude is now around $8.90 a barrel, 35 cents wider than a week ago.