Retail gas prices may be at seasonal low point

Crude oil price spike and expected demand increase should drive price at the pump higher
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 16, 2016 at 6:21 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. retail gasoline prices continue to fall, though with oil production cuts on the table, consumer may be enjoying the last of the savings, analysts said.

Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of gasoline at $1.69 for Tuesday, relatively unchanged from the previous day but 3 cents lower than last week and 21 cents, or 11 percent, less than one month ago.

Prices regionally are mirroring recent volatility in the crude oil market, with Midwest retail centers seeing increases because of decreased refinery activities. In Michigan, the average price per gallon is up 2 cents from last week, though the state-wide average is below the national level.

On the West Coast, the average retail price in Nevada was $2.07 per gallon, but is only one of five states in the nation with a price above the $2 mark.

AAA, in an emailed reported, attributed the swings to a market that "remains out of balance," with supplies far outweighing demand. With winter fading, however, road traffic may increase and lead to higher demand. Refineries, meanwhile, will soon start switching to a summer blend of gasoline that's more expensive to make because of the additional environmental safeguards needed in warmer months.

Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst with retail market watchdog GasBuddy, said that, even though gas prices will remain low by historic standards, the price at the pump may be at its lowest for the season.

"Chatter about a production cut has pushed oil back over $30 per barrel [for West Texas Intermediate]. While the West Coast may see more declines, more and more increases will be coming to pumps in days near you," he said in an emailed statement. "I'll call it our pump transition week."

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