U.S. retail gasoline pump price increases fell by more than 6 cents last week to a national average of $2.67 for a gallon of regular gas. The price of crude oil dipped by more than 2% last week and remains down about 17% over the past four weeks. The attack on two tankers in the Persian Gulf on June 13 sent crude oil prices higher momentarily, but rising supply in the United States quickly returned as the dominant force holding down crude oil — and U.S. gasoline — prices.
Futures and options traders continue selling their long positions in major petroleum contracts. Hedge funds are piling into short positions but if the global economy gets a boost and avoids a recession later this year, the funds will dump those short positions as quickly as they can and shift to long contracts. The result could be the mother of all short squeezes.
Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, commented, “For the sixth straight week, gasoline prices have declined nationally, a feat not often seen heading into the prime of summer driving season. It was a perfect week with every state seeing average gas prices decline versus last Sunday when stations continued to pass along the lower replacement cost as oil prices remain under considerable selling pressure ….”
DeHaan continued, “For some states like California, Illinois and Ohio, the party may partially end in just two weeks as those states prepare to raise gasoline taxes a noticeable amount, sending their gas prices higher just in time for July 4. For the rest of us, not only can we celebrate the holiday with fireworks, but celebrate the falling prices heading into it. Not a bad summer to be hitting the road as Americans are spending nearly $100 million less every day on gasoline than a year ago.”
Retail gas prices dipped in all 50 states last week. The most common price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.39 a gallon, 20 cents a gallon lower than the prior week as prices in the Great Lakes region once again dropped sharply. Gas at the most expensive, 10% of U.S. gas stations, averaged $3.68 while prices at the least expensive, 10% of gas stations, averaged $2.17. The median price at all stations was $2.55, down 6 cents from the prior week.
At the same time last month, gas prices averaged $2.86, about 19 cents above the current price. A year ago, the national average price was about $2.89, or 22 cents higher than the most recent price. Gasbuddy continuously updates crowd-sourced gas prices on its website.
California drivers were paying $3.87 on average for a gallon of gas on Monday morning (down 5 cents week over week), with drivers in Hawaii ($3.81), Nevada ($3.39), Alaska ($3.37), and Washington ($3.33) rounding out the five states with the highest prices. Drivers in Oregon, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho, are also paying more than $3 a gallon.
At the other end of the spectrum, drivers in Mississippi ($2.24), South Carolina ($2.27), Louisiana ($2.27), Alabama ($2.28), and Tennessee($2.33) are paying the least for gas.
WTI crude oil for July delivery traded down about 0.4% in the noon hour Monday at $52.31 while Brent for August delivery traded at $61.50, down about 0.5%. The price differential (spread) between front-month WTI and Brent crude is now around $9.20 a barrel, about $0.30 cents wider than a week ago.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia can’t seem to agree on where the price of oil should be, and even if they could, the price would probably have to be lower than it is now. That’s not something either partner wants.