OPINIONFuels

Sad Motorists Helped Bring Down Pump Price

First gasoline price cut of the year
gas station
Photograph: Shutterstock

For the first time since the end of 2023, the national average retail gasoline price is down, to $3.7515 on May 3 for regular grade, according to the most recent Lundberg Survey of U.S. fuel markets. The drop, 2.03 cents per gallon (CPG), comes after the 59.25-cent price surge during the 15 weeks ending April 19.

The small decline comes from a sizeable drop in crude oil prices of the past two weeks, especially during the past seven days. It is also brought to us by the grimmer U.S. economic picture, with deterioration in the jobs scene, far lower than expected growth in the gross domestic product (GDP), high price inflation and worsening U.S. gasoline demand.

April gasoline demand is showing a marked deterioration from the declines that occurred in the first quarter of the year. In addition, the current pump price sits 9.14 CPG higher than it was one year ago.

A somewhat brighter spot comes from the U.S. retail diesel fuel price, down 4.47 cents to $4.1298 a gallon, and currently a discount of 6.31 CPG under its year-ago level. This is a bit of cost relief for transport of most goods consumers require.

This 2-cent drop in retail gasoline may not become a significant trend despite demand running scared. OPEC, displeased with the oil price declines, may extend or deepen participating nations’ oil production cuts past June. The Gaza war talks are not yielding confidence that Middle East instability will soon abate. Ukraine continues to damage Russian petroleum facilities. And the Houthis claim that as they continue obstructing Red Sea transit, they will now extend their attacks on shipping into the Mediterranean.

And in the United States, many business costs continue to rise, pushing gasoline margin needs by refiners and retailers higher. In this two-week period, both downstream sectors gained margin. In the case of retailers, with 2.97 CPG gained in these two weeks, margin recovery of the past month totals 15.7 CPG. The May 3 national average margin of 39.04 helps keeps doors open at a time of sales travail.

Baltimore’s average wholesale gasoline price fell more than did its retail average, affording retailers a margin improvement of 5.77 cents to the still-modest 25.90 cents. In Birmingham, Alabama, the average retail average edged up a tad while wholesale fell less then 2 cents, granting retailers here a little more margin, 2.36 cents to a thin average of 23.59 cents.

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

Trilby Lundberg is publisher of the Lundberg Survey of U.S. fuel markets. Lundberg Survey Inc. is based in Camarillo, California.

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