(GasBuddy) For the tenth straight week, the national average price of gasoline has continued to trend higher, posting a 5.9 cent increase from a week ago to $2.86 per gallon Monday according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 11 million individual price reports covering over 150,000 gas stations across the country. The national average now stands 33.2 cents higher than a month ago, as demand for gasoline continues to soar. The national average price of diesel has risen 7.0 cents in the last week and stands at $3.07 per gallon.

“As Americans turn optimistic on COVID-19 recovery, we’ve been seeing insatiable demand for gasoline, which continues to recover far faster than oil production. According to GasBuddy data, last week’s gasoline demand was just 1% below the pre-pandemic level, an extremely bullish factor likely to continue driving gas and oil prices up in the short term,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “The recovery in the last few weeks has been astounding- both the speed and overall volume increases we’ve seen in our data lend credibility to the recovery, and perhaps will lead to continued price increases due to the continued imbalance between supply and demand. It’s no longer a question of if we’ll see gasoline demand return to near normal this year but when, and will oil producers rise to the occasion and be able to quickly ramp up output, or are we going to see the highest summer prices since 2014 until they jump into action? Only time will tell, but it’s looking like things are heating up far more than expected since the start of the year.”

OIL PRICES

The price of oil was maintaining recent highs but so far hasn’t found support at higher levels. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down 52 cents to $65.09 per barrel in early Monday trade, slightly lower than last week’s start at $66.05 per barrel. Brent crude oil was off some 43 cents to $68.79 per barrel, just off last week Monday’s start of $69.17 per barrel. Pandemic recovery continues to heavily influence commodities, including crude oil, with optimism in some countries boosting price, but a surge in new coronavirus cases in Europe may be slowing the recent rise in oil.

Oil rig counts were mixed, according to Baker Hughes, with the US losing one rig for a total of 402 active rigs, still down 390 from a year ago, while Canada saw a drop of 25 rigs to 116 rigs, 59 lower than a year ago. Oil rig counts are a lagging indicator, but may show how producers respond to prices.

OIL INVENTORIES

Data from the Energy Information Administration last week continued fragmentation in inventories as refiners continue to slowly mend from the extreme cold nearly a month ago. The EIA reported that oil inventories jumped 13.8 million barrels while gasoline inventories shed 11.9 million barrels to a level 6.2% lower than a year ago and 6% below the five year average for this time of year. Implied demand for gasoline rose 578,000 barrels to 8.73 million barrels per day, thanks to a continued rise in gasoline demand. Refinery utilization saw improvement, jumping 13.0% to 69.0%, yet still below pre-Texas cold levels. Of the increase, much of it came from the Gulf region, which saw utilization rise nearly twenty percentage points.

FUEL DEMAND

According to a new dataset being released by GasBuddy, U.S. gasoline demand continued to rise for the week ending March 6, as COVID improvements and warmer weather inspired confidence to get out. National gasoline demand rose 2.9%, while demand rose 3.7% in PADD 1, rose 1.9% in PADD 2, rose 3.5% in PADD 3, rose 3.6% in PADD 4 and rose 2.5% in PADD 5. Gasoline demand last week set yet another new pandemic high, rising to just 1% below the last pre-pandemic figures from mid-March 2020.

GAS PRICE TRENDS

The most common U.S. gas price encountered by motorists was $2.69 per gallon, 10 cents higher from last week, followed by $2.79, $2.59 and $2.89.

The average cost at the priciest 10% of stations stands at $3.67 per gallon, up 11 cents from a week ago, while the lowest 10% average $2.49 per gallon, up 10 cents from a week ago.

The median U.S. price is $2.77 per gallon, up 8 cents from last week and about 9 cents lower than the national average.

The states with the lowest average prices: Mississippi ($2.54), Louisiana ($2.56) and Texas ($2.60).

The states with the highest priced states: California ($3.83), Hawaii ($3.49) and Washington ($3.27).