Steady as she goes for U.S. gas prices

Steady as she goes for U.S. gas prices

March 13 (UPI) — An increase in U.S. gasoline inventories offset some of the volatility in crude oil prices to leave retail gasoline prices relatively steady, analysis finds.

Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price of $2.52 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, relatively unchanged from last week and 5 cents per gallon, or nearly 2 percent, less than one month ago. That comes amid heightened volatility in crude oil prices and broad-based market pressures from U.S. federal trade and economic policies.

A tariff on steel and aluminum imports imposed last week by President Donald Trump was criticized by the energy industry’s trade lobby, the American Petroleum Institute, for creating headwinds for the country just as it’s about to become the world leader in oil production.

By region, the West Coast is the most expensive market in the country, with California and Washington both holding above the $3 per gallon mark. Most of the region saw hikes in retail gas prices, though the market remains well supplied with gasoline with stocks holding at about 4 million barrels above the level from last year, AAA reported.

The Great Lakes market, meanwhile, was the most volatile, with Michigan leading the pack with a 6 cent per gallon increase in the state average price for gasoline. The regional market is dependent on a concentration of refineries and maintenance at a PBF Energy plant in Ohio could mean inventories are at a premium at least to April.

For the nation as a whole, separate analysis emailed from commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts anticipates gasoline inventories declined 1.3 million barrels for the week ending March 9. That could lead to higher prices at the pump, though the five-year average decline for this time of year is closer to 2.7 million barrels.

The federal government estimates an annual average retail price of $2.60 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. Robert Sinclair, a AAA spokesman, told CNBC last week that $2.75 per gallon was the point at which consumers said they’d need to change their habits to adjust for pain at the pump.