U.S. retail gasoline declined for a second week, led by a price drop in the Rocky Mountain region, as refiners returned from maintenance.
Regular, unleaded gasoline at filling stations averaged $3.269 a gallon in the seven days through yesterday, down 0.3 cents from a week earlier, the Energy Information Administration said on its website. Prices are 3.7 percent below year-earlier levels. The biggest drop was in the Rocky Mountains, where the motor fuel fell 3.6 cents to $3.145.
U.S. pump prices are at a three-year low for this time of year as refiners take advantage of cheaper domestic crude supplies. Gasoline slid 2.1 cents the previous week as refiners produced a record seasonal amount of the fuel as they increased operations after maintenance.
“We could be looking at a couple pennies of relief by the time the next report comes around,” James Williams, the president of energy consulting firm WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said by phone yesterday.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark grade, rose 5.4 percent so far in December. The contract for January delivery gained as much as 36 cents to $97.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange today.
Refineries were operating at 92.4 percent of capacity in the week ended Nov. 29, the highest level for that period in nine years, according to EIA data compiled by Bloomberg.
Gasoline futures for January rose as much as 0.4 percent to $2.6852 a gallon.
Gasoline stockpiles in the Midwest, known as the PADD 2 region, are at a three-year seasonal high, totaling 48.6 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 29, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Production nationwide fell 4.7 percent to 8.98 million barrels a day in that period.
Retail gasoline dropped in the East Coast, Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain regions, while the fuel rose in the Midwest and West Coast, the EIA data show. The lowest price the past week was in the Rocky Mountains, averaging $3.077 a gallon, while the New England region of the East Coast had the most expensive gasoline at $3.494.
The total U.S. gasoline market “is sort of flat and waiting for direction,” David Hackett, the president of oil consulting firm Stillwater Associates, said by phone yesterday from Irvine, California.
“What’s going to be interesting is next week’s report,” Hackett said. “Gasoline prices are likely to come off from lack of demand due to cold weather.”
Temperatures across a large part of the U.S., including Texas, the Great Lakes and the Northeast, will be at least 8 degrees Fahrenheit below normal today until Dec. 13, according to Commodity Weather Group.
The EIA collects information for its weekly report from about 800 filling stations as of 8 a.m. local time on Mondays.