The national average price of gas has increased for two days in a row to $2.19 per gallon, which ended a 22-day streak of declining prices. Despite the end to the slide, the national average has fallen for 24 of the past 30 days and continues to sit at its lowest price for this date since 2004. Pump prices are down fractions of a penny week-over-week and have declined by 10 cents month-over-month. Motorists are also benefiting from significant yearly savings, with today’s price 80 cents per gallon less than a year ago.
Locally, gasoline prices in South Jersey have remained relatively stable for the past month or so. Today’s price of $1.89 for a gallon of unleaded gas is 1-cent less than one week ago ($1.90), which was the same price as one month ago. However, today’s price represents a decrease of 87 cents per gallon compared to this date last year ($2.76).
The Midwest has experienced heavy refinery maintenance in recent weeks due to heavier than normal production during the summer months. Although some of the planned work is beginning to conclude, unplanned outages have further reduced supply and kept prices volatile in the region. According to the U.S. EIA, refinery utilization in the Midwest hit a five-year low during the month of October, which has contributed to short-term supply challenges throughout the region. ExxonMobil’s Joliet, Illinois refinery is the latest to report unplanned issues, further challenging production from a plant that was already operating at reduced rates due to planned maintenance. Although refinery production rates are expected to return to normal in the next two months, unplanned outages could keep pump prices volatile in the region leading into the winter months, and possibly put a bit of upward pressure on the national average in the near term.
Consumers in South Carolina ($1.87) and Alabama ($1.90) are paying the nation’s lowest averages at the pump, and a total of nine states are posting averages below $2 per gallon. For the fifth consecutive week, drivers in every state are paying retail averages below $3 per gallon with states west of the Rockies leading the market: Hawaii ($2.88), California ($2.83), Nevada ($2.71), Alaska ($2.46) and Washington ($2.43).
On the whole, pump prices have been relatively steady week-over-week, moving by +/- 3 cents in 32 states. Drivers in the majority of states (46) are experiencing weekly savings in the price of retail gasoline, with the largest savings at the pump experienced by motorists in Colorado (-8 cents), Alaska (-7 cents) and Utah (-7 cents). Four states in the Midwest bucked the trend of weekly savings at the pump, largely attributed to unplanned refinery maintenance, which has further reduced supply in the region. Pump prices have moved markedly higher in Indiana (+18 cents) and Ohio (+17 cents) week-over-week, and retail averages could remain volatile leading into the winter months as the fall turnaround season concludes.
Retail averages in the vast majority of states (49) are down month-over-month, with consumers in 43 states and Washington, D.C., saving at least a nickel or more per gallon. Motorists in nearly half (24) of the states are benefitting from double-digit savings over this same period, with Alaska (-48 cents), Utah (-27 cents), Colorado (-27 cents) and Idaho (-27 cents) all posting discounts of more than a quarter per gallon in the price at the pump. The only state outside of this trend of savings is Iowa, where prices have inched higher by fractions of a penny month-over-month.
Yearly price comparisons continue to reveal significant savings in the price of retail gasoline nationwide, led by Alaska (-$1.26) and Hawaii (-$1.16). Averages in 41 states and Washington, D.C. are down by more than 75 cents per gallon year-over-year, and motorists in five states are saving more than $1 per gallon at the pump over this same period. Nevada (-44 cents) and California (-48 cents) are the only two states where drivers are not experiencing yearly savings of more than 50 cents per gallon.
Despite both Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices closing out the last week higher, new data showing abundant supplies, combined with reports of a slowing Chinese economy, has put downward pressure on both benchmarks to open this week’s trading. Global oversupply remains front of mind for market analysts, and despite the lower-prices, Iranian oil is expected to return to market and apply additional downward pressure to global prices.
Despite the U.S. oil rig count falling for the ninth consecutive week, U.S. production recently increased and crude oil inventories remain elevated compared to previous years. The recent gains in WTI are seen as a short-term shift, rather than a change in market fundamentals, and a sluggish week may be on the horizon for the domestic benchmark.
At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI was up 53 cents settling at $46.59 per barrel.
Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile