During July 2014, averages fell on all but one day during the month, for a total drop of 16 cents per gallon. Despite the decline in recent weeks, the direction of pump prices in the near term is less than certain. Consumer demand for gasoline typically climbs during July and August, and the ability of supply to keep pace with growing demand can directly impact the price at the pump. Additionally, retail averages can also be impacted by Atlantic hurricanes or issues at refineries, both capable of limiting supply and putting upward pressure on prices for drivers. While these domestic factors could influence gas prices higher, the relatively low price of crude oil is expected to keep a ceiling on the price at the pump compared to recent years. AAA still expects drivers to pay averages below $3 per gallon for the rest of the year.
Pump prices west of the Rockies continue to lead the nation with the only state averages higher than $3 per gallon. For the second week in a row motorists in Alaska ($3.48) are paying the nation’s highest price for retail gasoline. The Last Frontier is followed by regional neighbors California ($3.44), Hawaii ($3.37), Nevada ($3.20) and Washington ($3.20) as the nation’s top five most expensive markets. South Carolina ($2.43) and Mississippi ($2.47) are posting the nation’s lowest averages, discounted by more than $1 per gallon from the market leader.
Weekly price comparisons reflect drivers in 36 states and Washington, D.C. experiencing savings at the pump. Of the 14 states where the price has moved higher over this same period, 12 states are posting premiums of two cents per gallon or less. On the whole, the average price for retail gasoline has remained relatively stable, week-over-week, moving +/- 3 cents per gallon in the majority of states (47) and Washington, D.C. Three states located in the midcontinent region are outside of this trend: Ohio (-10 cents), Idaho (+7 cents) and Michigan (+6 cents) – the fluctuations in price are largely attributed to supply and demand remaining out of balance within the region following refinery issues in recent months.
Despite the national average remaining relatively stable over the past 30 days, the lingering effects of regional refinery issues continue to be reflected in monthly price comparisons at the state level. The price has climbed higher in 37 states and Washington D.C. month-over-month, with the largest price movements in regions previously facing issues at major refineries. A total of seven states are posting double-digit increases over this period, led by Michigan (+22 cents), Idaho (+13 cents) and Washington (+13 cents). On the other end of the spectrum, prices are down in 13 states versus one month ago. Prices in California (-18 cents) and Nevada (-7 cents) have fallen by more than one nickel per gallon over this same period due to the earlier resolution of refinery issues in California.
Nationwide, drivers are enjoying significant discounts in the price for retail gasoline versus this same date last year. Consumers in Connecticut (-$1.04) and Washington D.C. (-$1.01) are saving more than $1 per gallon at the pump, and drivers in the vast majority of states (45 and Washington, D.C.) are posting yearly discounts of more than 75 cents per gallon.
International considerations remain front and center for oil prices, due to their potential to impact both global supply and nations’ demand for crude oil on the global market. Over the weekend Greece voted ‘no’ on a referendum over debt bailout terms, which is seen as the latest signal that the country could exit the Eurozone following its recent default on loans from the International Monetary Fund. This news puts substantial pressure on the value of the Euro and subsequently adds further strength to the U.S. dollar. A stronger U.S. dollar makes crude oil (priced in U.S. dollars) relatively more expensive for those holding other currencies, which lowers demand and pressures prices lower.
The NYMEX was closed last Friday in observance of the Independence Day holiday, and on Thursday West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled down three cents at $56.93 per barrel, reaching its lowest finish since April. Losses continued when markets reopened this morning, and prices were driven lower by the results of the Greek vote over the weekend. Shortly after the open this morning WTI had dropped $2.50 per barrel.