Gas prices volatile, but remain low

Regional markets may be impacted by swing in crude oil prices and the weekend snow storm.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Jan. 26, 2016 at 5:50 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Though the average U.S. price for a gallon of gasoline went up by a fraction of a cent, retail prices remain at their lowest in six years, market reports show.

Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded at $1.83, an increase of 0.05 percent from Monday but still the lowest for this time of year since 2009. From last week, the price at the pump is 3 percent, or around 6 cents, lower. Regular unleaded was around $2 at this time last year.

AAA attributes much of the decline in gasoline prices to lower crude oil prices. The price for the latter is in historic decline because markets are favoring the supply side. Demand for gasoline, meanwhile, is typically lower, adding further negative pressure to consumer prices.

Demand for gasoline was skewed lower by the winter storm system that buried much of the east coast under as much as 2 feet of snow. That demand factor, however, may be offset by refinery outages in the area. AAA reports a PBF Energy refinery in Delaware City, Del., was closed briefly because of a power outage during blizzard conditions.

Crude oil prices, meanwhile, increased 9 percent during trading Friday, which may influence the price at the pump in some regional markets.

"Thanks to the one-day super surge in a barrel of crude, some motorists may be facing some gas price hikes, most likely in the volatile Great Lakes region, while the rest of the country may face a bit of a mixed bag," analysts with retail group said in an emailed statement.

Ohio and Michigan are recording state average prices that are up about 9 cents. A consumer alert from GasBuddy shows Ohio consumers can expect the average price per gallon to increase from around $1.59 to $1.79.

Any rally in prices may be short lived as crude oil prices gave up most of Friday's gains during trading Monday. AAA said the rally in crude oil prices last week was the result of trading volatility as contracts expired and not an indication markets were pulling away from the supply side.

"Market fundamentals remain unchanged and a 'lower-for-longer' sentiment is beginning to prevail amongst speculators," it said in its weekly market report.

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