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Gasoline Prices Continue Rising, Slowdown in Sight

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The national average gasoline price has continued its upward move, rising 1.1 cents over the last week to $2.41 per gallon. Climbing to its highest level since September 5, 2015, the $6-per-barrel rise in oil prices over the last few weeks was supported by last week’s decline in oil inventories and pressure from geopolitical tensions.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices have risen 12% from $47.34 per barrel on March 21 to $53.14 per barrel in early trading this morning, fueling much of the rise in gasoline prices. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have risen just 5% from $2.28 per gallon on March 21 to $2.41 per gallon today, lending support to the notion that prices are likely to continue to rise, playing catch up to the more dramatic rise in oil prices.

Last Wednesday’s weekly report from the Energy Information Administration highlighted a larger than expected drop in crude oil inventories and gasoline inventories, which continues to weigh on markets. While such a drop is not uncommon in the spring as refiners begin to ramp up production while purging winter gasoline, such declines are a major departure from the large increases in crude inventories that were commonplace to start the first two months of 2017.

Versus last week, 41 states saw average gasoline prices rise, while nine states, mainly in the Great Lakes, saw declines. Leading states higher was Delaware (up 9 cents), Idaho (up 7 cents), with Vermont, Colorado and Iowa all up 6 cents. Leading decliners were Michigan (down 7 cents), followed by Indiana and Ohio (down 6 cents), Illinois (down 3 cents) and Missouri (down 2 cents).

While some states in the Great Lakes saw average gasoline prices ease after leading the nation by rising double digits each of the last two weeks, most the country saw a continued rise. However, the national average may reach its peak for the year in the next few weeks barring major escalation in Syria as refiners have generally concluded seasonal maintenance work and summer gasoline’s May 1st deadline for refiners is just around the corner. While average prices are far below their five-year average, they remain notably higher than last year. Today shows just 405 gas stations in the U.S. selling gasoline at $2 per gallon or less, a far cry from a year ago when more than 80,000 stations were at the level.

The nation’s cheapest gasoline prices could be found in South Carolina, where prices averaged $2.12 per gallon. Many states throughout the South followed behind: Oklahoma ($2.16), Mississippi ($2.17), Arkansas ($2.17), Tennessee ($2.17) and Alabama ($2.18). The usual suspects saw the nation’s priciest gallons: Hawaii ($3.08), California ($3.01), Washington ($2.90), Alaska ($2.86) and Oregon ($2.75).

Head of Petroleum Analysis (USA)

Patrick has developed into the leading source for reliable and accurate information on gas price hikes. Patrick has been interviewed as a gasoline price expert hundreds of times since 2004. Based in Chicago, Patrick brings to GasBuddy all his assets to help consumers by giving reliable and accurate price forecasts, including the San Jose Mercury News dubbing Patrick "one of the nation's most accurate forecasters" in 2012.

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