Gas prices are likely move higher as we head into the spring refinery maintenance season; however prices should remain lower than recent years. Refineries conducting maintenance will produce less fuel, though ample gasoline supply and lower-than-expected prices for crude oil should limit any seasonal price spikes. Some regional markets are beginning to reflect the effects of refinery production cuts, and prices have climbed in the Midwest on the week as a result.
Consumers in the vast majority of states (45) are paying retail averages below $2 per gallon. Missouri ($1.46) and Oklahoma ($1.46) are the nation’s least expensive markets, and pump prices are below $1.75 per gallon in a total of 36 states. On the other end of the spectrum, motorists in the West are paying some of the nation’s highest averages led by Hawaii ($2.57) and California ($2.32). Regional neighbors Alaska ($2.22), Washington ($2.02) and Nevada ($2.00) round out the top five most expensive markets for gasoline.
Weekly comparisons show that gas prices are moving in different directions in various parts of the country. Pump prices are down in 30 states and Washington, D.C. on the week with the largest savings west of the Rockies: Arizona (-9 cents), California (-9 cents) and Nevada (-9 cents). Opposite this trend, drivers in 20 states are paying more week-over-week. Averages are up more than a nickel per gallon in 11 states and motorists in six states saw prices increase by double digits. The largest jumps in price were in Minnesota (+18 cents), Michigan (+15 cents) and Indiana (+14 cents). Averages in the Midwest could continue to climb higher as refineries in the region continue to reduce production due to ample supplies and low prices.
Motorists in 47 states and Washington, D.C. are benefitting from monthly savings in the price to refuel their vehicles. Retail averages are down by more than a nickel per gallon in the vast majority (46) of states and prices are down by double-digit increments on the month in 40 states and Washington, D.C. The largest savings over this period are in California (-36 cents), Nevada (-35 cents), Arizona (-31 cents) and Alaska (-27 cents), where averages are down by more than a quarter per gallon on the month. Pump prices in the West continue to drop largely due to abundant refinery production and supplies. Outside of this trend of monthly savings are the Midwestern states of Ohio (+10 cents), Indiana (+10 cents) and Michigan (+9 cents), where pump prices have climbed higher on the month by around a dime per gallon.
Retail averages are down in every state and Washington, D.C. year-over-year. With the exception of Idaho (-9 cents) and Utah (-20 cents), drivers nationwide are experiencing savings of more than a quarter per gallon at the pump on the year. Averages in the majority of states (41) are down by 50 cents or more per gallon over this same period, with the largest yearly discounts in price in Kansas (-70 cents), Kentucky (-69 cents) and Missouri (-69 cents).
The global price for crude oil continues to move based on speculation regarding the market’s future balance between supply and demand. A possible freeze in production, spearheaded by OPEC member Saudi Arabia, grabbed the attention of market watchers for much of last week, but failed to produce any real gains in price, as the likelihood of a deal remains questionable. It also is unlikely that a production freeze near current levels would have any effect on reducing abundant global supplies.
At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down $1.13 to settle at $29.64 per barrel.