U.S. retail gasoline prices jumped nearly six cents a gallon last week to a national average of $2.60 a gallon, according to the latest data from GasBuddy. Month over month, the price rose by more than four cents a gallon, and it is nearly 32 cents a gallon higher year over year. Last month the national average was $2.515, while the year-ago average was $2.288.
Falling crude oil inventories and rising prices for crude remained the rule for the week ended March 23. Refinery utilization rose to around 92% as refiners complete scheduled maintenance, along with the switch from winter-grade to summer-grade fuel. Pump prices rose in every state except Ohio last week. Spring gasoline prices have indeed sprung.
As more seasonal maintenance begins at U.S. refineries over the next few weeks, utilization rates will decline and gasoline production will slip as well. U.S. inventories are about 150 million barrels below their levels of a year ago.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said:
The jump at the pump has continued unabated over the last week as oil prices have rallied and the typical spring fever starts to grip energy markets, causing gas prices to continue to accelerate. The Great Lakes led the region as this area cycled one step closer to the final summer-spec gasoline in the last week. With that change, came a price rise that was passed on from the wholesale to the retail level, pushing prices to tie for the highest prices in a couple years. Much of the rest of the country also saw prices rise, albeit a tamer rise. As March wraps up, gas prices are going out like a small lion, but there may be a larger lion looming in the weeks ahead. The surge at the pump is by no means over just yet.
According to GasBuddy, states where prices moved most last week were: Idaho and New Mexico (up 11 cents); Delaware, South Carolina and Utah (up 10 cents); Nevada (up nine cents); and Maryland, North Carolina and Arizona (up eight cents).
States with the lowest average prices last week included: Missouri ($2.33); Mississippi ($2.35); Arkansas ($2.36); Alabama ($2.37); Texas and Oklahoma ($2.38); South Carolina and Louisiana ($2.39); Wyoming ($2.41); and Tennessee ($2.42).
The highest average prices per gallon last week were reported from California ($3.47); Hawaii ($3.45); Washington ($3.10); Alaska ($3.08); Oregon ($3.01); Nevada ($2.96); Pennsylvania ($2.79); New York ($2.73); Connecticut ($2.72); and Michigan ($2.71).
West Texas Intermediate crude oil for May delivery traded down about 0.7% Monday afternoon at $65.45. while Brent for May delivery traded at $70.12. The price differential (spread) between WTI and Brent crude rose to $4.67 a barrel week over week.