The national average price of gasoline has increased 3 cents to $2.31 per gallon in the last week, according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 10 million individual price reports covering 135,000 gas stations across the United States.
“Gas prices have advanced to their highest level in nearly two months mainly following as oil prices move higher. Gasoline demand remains seasonally weak, but last week’s report from the Energy Information Administration showed refinery utilization plunging, meaning less gasoline is flowing out of refiners,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “In addition, bullish data and optimism on a U.S.-China trade deal helped propel markets last week, as well as turmoil in Venezuela making a strong case for a larger absence of heavy crudes the market depends on. But while gas prices are nearly guaranteed to be higher in May than today, it is looking more likely that the rise in prices this year may be more muted than we’ve seen in years past when prices launched 35-75 cents during the spring.”
Oil prices have advanced to their highest level in months, posting a jump last week to $56 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate crude oil while Brent crude oil jumped to $66 per barrel. Prices have risen sharply since WTI crude hit an intraday low of $43 per barrel on December 24, 2018, as oil production cuts, the optimism of a trade deal between China and the U.S. and sanctions in Venezuela have all played into rising oil prices and thus rising gasoline prices.
In last week’s weekly report from the Energy Information Administration, refiners saw a notable drop in utilization rates, which fell nearly 5% to 85.9%, signaling that less crude oil was being run through refineries, likely due to some issues at refiners, but mainly due to the upcoming maintenance season that typically sees work done from February through May. All five regions of the country saw refinery utilization drop, led by an 8.7% drop in the Midwest. Gasoline inventories did increase slightly, thanks to a large, one-off build in the Gulf Coast where stocks jumped by nearly 6 million barrels.
At the gas pump, motorists have been seeing prices rise on and off and the lowest prices are now solidly behind us for most areas. The most common price across the U.S. rose to $2.19 per gallon, while $2.09 was the second most common price and $2.29 a gallon the third most common price. The number of stations in the U.S. selling gasoline under $2 per gallon fell to 11,286, the lowest point since December 9 after hitting nearly 36,000 stations on January 9.
Gas prices are likely to rise slightly in most areas over the next week as oil prices continue to put some pressure on gasoline, though gasoline demand remains seasonally soft, limiting the pass-through of higher oil prices. Just one state remains with an average under $2 per gallon: Mississippi, at $1.99 per gallon.