After a year of uncertainty and instability in the market created by COVID-19 and a global shutdown, we are starting to see signs of a return to normalcy. Over the past 8 weeks there has been a gradual decline in COVID-19 cases nationally. According to Bloomberg business, “retail gasoline sales rose last week to just 1% below year-ago levels, just before regional lockdowns brought fuel consumption to a crawl.”
The oil patch is rallying today being led by refined products. This is due to the fact that Hurricane Sally has left a trail of “catastrophic” rainfall in Alabama earlier this week and is now barreling through the Carolinas and is hindering supply at petroleum terminals.
Since making recent headlines, many people are familiar with the Philadelphia Energy Solution (PES) oil refinery explosion that occurred on Friday, June 21st at approximately 4:00 a.m. in South Philadelphia. The blaze injured five workers that were treated for minor injuries. The explosion caused a 3.5% – 3.9% jump in RBOB prices on the NYMEX due to concern that the outage may constrain supply.
On May 7th we reported the beginning of the end of the spring gasoline price rally. After six weeks of gains on the NYMEX, and summer grade gas specification changes piling on more cost, retailers were unable to pass through daily wholesale price increases.
On April 10th, we had warned the spring price rally along with summer gas specification changes were upon us and soon retail gasoline prices would breach the $3.00 mark. Looking at GasBuddy, retail gas prices today across Pennsylvania $3.00 plus prices are now the norm. Pittsburgh with RFG gasoline leads the state with an average $3.15 per gallon 87 grade pump price.
On April 3 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill which will increase the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes for the state. Starting on July 1st the state tax on diesel fuel will increase by 19 cents to a total of 47 cents per gallon. The 67% increase will bump Ohio to the 6th highest diesel fuel tax rate behind only California, Pennsylvania, Washington, Indiana, and New Jersey. The tax on gasoline will be increased by 10.5 cents per gallon to a total of 38.5 cents per gallon. Ohio’s gasoline tax will remain lower than Pennsylvania and Indiana, but will be higher than its neighboring states, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan.
On March 1st the front month futures gasoline contract closed at $1.74 a gallon. At the time of this writing the contract trades were at $2.03 per gallon, a 14% increase in five weeks. Further pushing physical prices higher is the price differential (Basis) versus the futures which moved $0.07.
The thinly traded holiday gasoline market bottomed out on December 24th with a NYMEX low of $1.2352 per gallon. Here we are a few days into the New Year trading at a high of $1.4146. Here’s what happened to push prices higher.
The U.S. typically sees a drop in gasoline prices as demand begins to tail off at the end of the summer travel season. This year is breaking the trend with gasoline prices sitting at their highest for the season since 2014, due in large part to the global oil price rally. AAA reports that the national price average was at $2.867 as of Wednesday, September 26th. Gasoline prices were 27 cents higher per gallon than they were at the same time last year, and this backwards trend could continue into the fall and winter seasons.