ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Gas prices are up, but so far, fuel consumers aren’t letting that get them down.
According to the most recent Consumer Fuels survey by NACS, 57% of consumers said they were feeling optimistic about the economy. This is the third month in a row that a majority of fuel consumers were optimistic, even though gas prices have increased each of those three months.
Consumers reported a median gas price of $2.30 per gallon in January 2017, which is 11 cents per gallon (CPG) higher than the reported December median price. Cumulatively, it is 15 CPG higher than the reported median price for November 2016, and year over year, is 32 CPG higher than the January 2016 reported price of $1.98 per gallon.
The upward trend in gas prices has not escaped notice. In the January 2017 survey, 61% of fuel consumers said they noticed gas prices were “much” or “somewhat” higher than in the previous month. For December 2016, 38% reported higher prices from the month prior, and in November 2016, only 27% noticed an increase from the previous month.
This awareness of increasing prices is highly regional, with 71% of northeastern consumers noticing the trend, compared to only 46% of westerners.
Most fuel consumers surveyed in January 2017 expected the trend of increasing gas prices to continue, with 56% predicting “much” or “somewhat” higher prices in the next 30 days. This compares to only 32% of consumers who had anticipated higher gas prices in January 2016.
That said, a majority—57%—still felt “very” or “somewhat” optimistic about the economy. In the Northeast, where consumers were most likely to notice higher gas prices, they were also the least optimistic. Western consumers, who were least likely to notice increasing prices, were also the most optimistic about the economy.
By age group, consumers older than 50 were the most optimistic, with 59% expecting a better economy, compared to 54% of 18- to 34-year-olds. This marks a shift from previous surveys, where millennials tended to be most optimistic.
“Strong economic sentiment may help continue to push sales at convenience stores and other retail outlets,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for NACS. He noted that 18% of consumers said they would shop more in January, which tends to be one of the year’s slower shopping months. And nearly 90% of fuel consumers expected to drive the same amount or more than in the month prior.
Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates conducted the most recent NACS Consumer Fuels survey online from Jan. 4-6, 2017, with 1,114 U.S. adults who buy fuel for a vehicle at least once per month. For the full results of the January survey, click here.