U.S. motorists win in weak oil market

Low demand and low oil prices means lower retail gasoline prices, analyses found.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  May 9, 2017 at 6:19 AM
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May 9 (UPI) -- Low consumer demand and even lower crude oil prices means U.S. drivers are paying less at the fueling station than they were last month, market analyses found.

Motor club AAA reported a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.34, down about 1 cent from Monday, 4 cents from last week and 5 cents from one month ago. Last week, all but four states saw a decline in retail gasoline prices, bucking a seasonal trend.

"The trending decline is due to an unseasonable glut of gasoline in the U.S. market, record high refinery production rates, moderate demand and a recent drop in crude oil prices," AAA stated in its weekly market report.

Retail gasoline prices usually start climbing toward Memorial Day as consumer demand picks up as winter fades. Refiners are also making a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to make because of the additional steps needed to prevent evaporation during warmer months.

The West Coast, the most expensive market in the country, was the only market where demand seems to be drawing in regional inventories of fuel products, though gas prices in the region as a whole were relatively steady. Gas prices in California, the most expensive state in the Lower 48, are lower than last week by about 2 cents to $2.98 per gallon.

The Great Lakes region remains the most volatile in the country and five regional states made the Top 10 list for those with the largest declines from last week. Ohio, Michigan and Indiana all posted price declines of 9 cents, and for Ohio, that put it within sight of the monthly average for last May.

AAA said summer demand should peak up late in the summer travel season, possibly by July or August. Barring any geopolitical or market shocks, the pain at the pump should be relatively moderated for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

In a separate report, Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst with consumer price watcher GasBuddy.com, said the combination of weak demand, low refinery activity and crude oil prices under $50 per barrel all lead to benefits for summer motorists.

"Prices now lay on the fringe of falling under the same point as last year as this year's usual spring rally has been the weakest in recent memory," he said in an emailed report.

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