Wholesale Costs Set to Reverse March’s Lower Trend in Retail Prices

pumping gasLARGEBy Brian L. Milne, Energy Editor, Schneider Electric

After four consecutive weeks with a decline, and 23 out of 29 days in which retail gasoline prices have fallen, higher wholesale costs could reverse the recent trend observed in March and push prices at the pump higher in early April.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported the fourth straight decline in its weekly price survey for gasoline sold at retail outlets across the U.S. through March 25, with the national average for all formulations of regular grade gasoline at a $3.680 gallon six-week low, while down 23.8 cents from the comparable year-ago price point.

View Schneider Electric’s Weekly and Historical Gasoline Price Index.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said from March 1 through March 29, the national retail gasoline average declined in 23 of those days while declining 13 cents over that period.

Tracy Noble, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said it was too soon to know if the national average for regular grade gasoline already peaked for the summer, pointing to ongoing refinery maintenance and the transition to summer-blend gasoline for much of the country.

“However, with the national average falling further below the year-ago price, AAA continues to predict that the national average will crest lower than recent years. In 2011 the national average for regular unleaded peaked at $3.98 on May 5. In 2012 the price peaked at $3.94 on April 5 and 6.”

The EIA shows its U.S. average for retail gasoline prices posted a high on Feb. 25 of $3.784 gallon.

Wholesale gasoline costs moved higher in the majority of major US metropolitan markets during the final days of March. Meanwhile, New York Mercantile Exchange West Texas Intermediate crude futures rallied to a $97.80 a barrel 1-1/2 month high for the nearest delivered contract on April 1 before reversing lower on weaker data for manufacturing during March in both the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and energy consumers.

About the author
Brian L. Milne is the Energy Editor for Schneider Electric—a leading business-to-business provider of real-time commodity information services among many other activities. Milne has been focused on the energy industry for 17 years as an analyst, journalist and editor. He can be reached at brian.milne@telventdtn.com.

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