Refiners Now Fat & Happy, Retailers Still Pinched

Price surge may end soon

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- Over three weeks, the U.S. average retail price of regular grade gasoline jumped 21.75 cents per gallon to $2.7973, according to the most recent Lundberg Survey of approximately 2,500 U.S. gas stations.

Gas nozzle gas prices margins refiners retailers (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Gas Stations)

It is up nearly 35 cents over five weeks.

Versus one year ago, the price is a discount of 93 cents per gallon.

One cause of the U.S. retail price increase was crude oil prices, up with the weaker U.S. dollar. The other causes were from the U.S. gasoline market.

A little of the price rise came from late season switches to lower vapor pressure product. The rest was refinery repairs and hiccups, especially in California where the average retail price surged 53 cents over the three weeks. In Los Angeles, scene of the ExxonMobil Torrance plant, which is still not fully up from its February event, the price was kicked 65 cents higher.

California, as the country's biggest state gasoline consumer, caused the U.S. price to rise more than it otherwise would have.

California's elevated prices are attracting gallons outside the state and outside the country, as foreign and non-California U.S. suppliers seek to capitalize on the spike. As supply is added, price will deflate.

Refiners are now fat and happy as to gasoline margin, and can be expected to lose some of that gain soon, while retailers are still weak as their margin edged up just four cents, to a bare 9.72 cents per gallon.

From here, if the push-pulls in the crude oil market result in little price change, then the pump price will sway to the tune of gasoline alone. As gallons cross borders and alleviate supply tightness, and as refiner gasoline margin gives while retailer margin gets, then the U.S. street price hike may well lose power and subside.

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

Click here for previous Lundberg Survey reports in CSP Daily News.

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