Gasoline Prices Want to Peak Soon

Lundberg asks, will crude let them?

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- During the pas two weeks, regular grade at retail rose 12.31 cents per gallon to $3.8148 per gallon, according to the most recent Lundberg Survey of approximately 2,500 U.S. gas stations.

It is a smaller rise than in the prior two weeks period, more than 18 cents per gallon. It comes from earlier oil price hikes, and to a small degree from West Coast refinery turnaround projects that have soaked up some of the gasoline glut.

The gasoline market itself is oversupplied: high supplies, low demand, and a deep refining capacity cushion (despite Spring turnarounds) are leaving little room for more price hikes.

Crude slipped by more than $2 per barrel, to $107.40 per barrel. If it stays pat, then gasoline price rises will slow further, prices will peak, then drift down--perhaps before Memorial Day. As always, crude oil is the dominant factor in what gasoline prices will do.

Tucked inside whatever gasoline price increases do happen will be some further normalization of retail margin--at less than eight cents per gallon on regular on March 9 on a U.S. average basis, it is too narrow to be sustained much longer.

Camarillo, Calif.-based Lundberg Survey Inc. is an independent market research company specializing in the U.S. petroleum marketing and related industries.

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