Retail gasoline prices climbed above year-earlier levels for the sixth consecutive week, tracking oil futures that rose above $100 a barrel on Sept. 14 for the first time since May.
The national average for regular gasoline climbed 3.1 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $3.878 a gallon from a week earlier, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report posted on its website yesterday. Prices are up 7.7 percent from $3.601 in 2011 and at a record-high for this time of year.
Retail gasoline has risen 52 cents a gallon since the beginning of July on unplanned refinery outages and as crude futures in New York climbed 14 percent over the same period. Oil, which makes up about 66 percent of the costs of gasoline, gained $2.58 last week as the Federal Reserve’s plan to buy mortgage securities increased demand for commodities and stocks.
“Crude prices are the main driver of gasoline prices, and oil was basically up six cents a gallon,” David Hackett, the president of independent fuel consultant Stillwater Associates in Irvine, California, said by telephone yesterday.
Oil for October delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was at $96.96 a barrel in electronic trading today. Futures dropped $2.38, or 2.4 percent, to settle at $96.62 a barrel yesterday after tumbling to as low as $94.65 in late trading.
Crude stockpiles gained 2 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, to 359.1 million in the week ended Sept. 7, Energy Department data show. They probably rose another 1 million barrels to 360.1 million last week, according to the median of seven analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow.
Gasoline for October delivery on Nymex was trading at $2.9604 a gallon today, up 1.71 cents. Futures dropped 2.4 percent yesterday to settle at $2.9433 a gallon.
Motor-gasoline inventories slipped 1.18 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, to 197.7 million in the week ended Sept. 7, the Energy Department said. They probably climbed 1.5 million barrels to 199.2 million last week, the Bloomberg survey shows.
Retail gasoline rose the most in the U.S. Rocky Mountain region this week, increasing 7.4 cents to $3.772 a gallon, the highest since April. Suncor Energy Inc.’s Commerce City refinery in Colorado shut Aug. 27 after losing both of its boilers and was working to restart units a day later.
HollyFrontier Corp. was also scheduled to shut a coker at the Cheyenne refinery in Wyoming around Aug. 15 for about a month of planned work, two people familiar with the schedule said July 12.
The U.S. West Coast was the only region where prices fell, slipping 0.9 cent to $4.074 a gallon, according to the Energy Department.
Prices are “settling down” in California following an Aug. 6 fire at Chevron Corp.’s Richmond refinery, Hackett said.
The Energy Department conducts a telephone survey on Mondays of 800 retail gasoline outlets across the U.S. to post weekly prices.