Retail Gasoline Margins 'Crash'

No change for U.S. prices masks huge regional swings, says Lundberg

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- In the past two weeks, the U.S. average retail price of regular grade gasoline fell 0.17 cents per gallon to $3.6093. The price of WTI crude on the NYMEX fell one penny per barrel. It was no change for oil and gasoline between August 12 and August 26, according to the most recent Lundberg Survey (www.lundbergsurvey.com) of approximately 2,500 U.S. gas stations.

At wholesale it was another matter, with price hikes sending retail margins into the red in many locations. The hikes came from refinery glitches in the West and from Tropical Storm Irene sending spot and futures prices soaring in fear of her potential destruction.

But Irene's direct impact is doing more to hurt demand than hurt supply. U.S. gasoline demand was already falling due to the economy, and now much more so in the wide swath of the storm.

If crude prices remain relatively stable, then due to conflicting forces retail gasoline prices may not show big changes in coming days--at least on a U.S. average basis.

Meanwhile, retail margin crashed in the past two weeks to less than 7 cents per gallon on regular. It remains double-digit for mid-grade and premium. On August 26, margin was negative on regular grade in nearly one-third of cities, under 10 cents in about one-third, with the rest eking out double digits.

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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