March 26, 2019 - With an eight-cent jump on the week, at $2.62, the national average continues to trend more expensive since mid-February. While today’s national average is nearly a quarter more expensive than last month, it is only two cents more expensive than last year at this time.
“Thanks to increasing demand and tightening gasoline stocks across the country, March gas prices came in like a lion and will not go out like a lamb,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “State gas price averages are very similar to a year ago give or take a few pennies, which means some motorists are paying among the most expensive averages seen this time of year in the last five years.”
On the week, every state except Florida (no change) saw gas prices increase, some as much as 16 cents, with the Great Lakes and Central region seeing the most states with double-digit jumps on the week.
The nation’s top 10 largest weekly increases are: Missouri (+15 cents), California (+14 cents), Indiana (+14 cents), Arizona (+14 cents), New Mexico (+12 cents), Michigan (+12 cents), Ohio (+12 cents), Illinois (+11 cents), Kansas (+11 cents) and Oregon (+10 cents).
The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets are: Utah ($2.34), Alabama ($2.36), Mississippi ($2.37), Arkansas ($2.37), Louisiana ($2.38), South Carolina ($2.40), Wyoming ($2.40), Texas ($2.41), Virginia ($2.42) and Oklahoma ($2.43).
Great Lakes and Central States
Jumping a dime or more, six Great Lakes and Central States land on this week’s top 10 list with the largest increases: Missouri (+15 cents), Indiana (+14 cents), Michigan (+12 cents,) Ohio (+12 cents), Illinois (+11 cents) and Kansas (+11 cents). In the region, Kentucky (+3 cents) saw the smallest increase.
Gas prices range from $2.74 to $2.43. Illinois ($2.74) and Michigan ($2.70) carry the largest state averages in the region and are among the top 10 most expensive in the country this week.
The Great Lakes and Central States region saw the second largest decrease in gasoline stocks this week with a draw of 1 million bbl, per the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest data report. The decrease drives total stocks down to 55.7 million bbl, the lowest measure on count this year, and keeps gas prices pushing more expensive.
This week, Utah ($2.34) carries the cheapest gas price average in the country while Wyoming ($2.40) ranks as the 7th least expensive. This is a vast juxtaposition to last year when both states routinely ranked as some of the most expensive state gas price averages. This winter, most of the Rockies region has seen significantly cheaper gas prices likely due to strong inventory levels and lower demand. Year-over-year, gas prices are as much as a quarter cheaper in the region. However, this isn’t expected to be the case throughout the spring and summer as gas prices are expected to return to the more expensive levels of last year.
On the week, most states in the region saw gas prices increase significantly: Wyoming (+8 cents), Idaho (+8 cents), Colorado (+8 cents), Montana (+7 cents) and Utah (+3 cents).
Gasoline stocks dipped by 68,000 bbl, wiping out the prior week’s gains. Stocks now measure at 7.3 million bbl. The EIA reports that regional refinery utilization jumped up from 89 to 90.1 percent indicating that stocks could build in coming weeks
Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
Gas price averages in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states are as much as a six cents cheaper in Delaware to three cents more expensive in Tennessee as compared to last year. For states that have more expensive gas prices, it’s only by a few pennies, though spring demand could likely drive all states averages more expensive year-over-year.
This week, gas prices range from $2.42 to $2.81. Motorists in Tennessee (+9 cents) saw the region’s largest increase in pump prices while West Virginia (+1 cents) saw the smallest.
The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region was the only area to see gas stocks increase on the week, albeit it 442,000 bbl. Even with the build, EIA reports stocks continue to measure at the 63 million mark which helped most of the region see moderate gas price changes this past week.
South and Southeast
Florida ($2.61) was the only state to not see any change in their gas price average in the country and region. All other states saw gas prices increase with averages in New Mexico (+12 cents), South Carolina (+10 cents) and Texas (+9 cents) seeing the largest weekly change.
Even as gas prices continue to increase, Alabama ($2.36), Mississippi ($2.37), Arkansas ($2.37), Louisiana ($2.38), South Carolina ($2.40), Texas ($2.41) and Oklahoma ($2.43) carry among the cheapest averages in the country.
EIA data shows that the South and Southeast had the largest draw in stocks in the country with 2.4 million bbl, dropping totals to 83 million bbl, which is the lowest reading since the end of November 2018. Stocks have drawn sharply from February’s 90 million bbl reading to today. The consistent decrease since February — which is partly attributed to exports — has caused gas prices to increase throughout the region.
Pump prices in the West Coast region are among the highest in the nation, with most of the region’s states landing on the nation’s top 10 most expensive list. California ($3.49) and Hawaii ($3.40) are the most expensive markets. Washington ($3.07), Oregon ($2.96), Nevada ($2.89) and Alaska ($2.83) follow. Arizona ($2.67) is the only state in the region that dropped from the 10 most expensive markets list. All prices in the region have increased on the week, with California (+14 cents), Arizona (+14 cents) and Oregon (+10 cents) seeing the largest jumps.
EIA’s recent weekly report showed that West Coast gasoline stocks fell by 1.5 million bbl from the previous week and now sit at 31.3 million bbl. Stocks are approximately 1.5 million bbl lower than at this time last year, which could cause prices to spike if there is a supply challenge in the region this week.
Oil market dynamics
At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI decreased 94 cents to settle at $59.04. U.S. stock market losses dragged oil prices lower despite new data from EIA that revealed that total domestic crude inventories fell by nearly 10 million bbl to 439.5 million bbl. The larger-than-expected drawdown could be a sign of higher crude prices in the near future in light of crude export sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and OPEC’s 1.2 million b/d production reduction agreement which is in place with other major global crude producers through June 2019. Crude prices could rise this week if there is another major drawdown. Pump prices will likely follow suit as the country enters the late spring and summer driving seasons.
In related news, Baker Hughes Inc. reported that the U.S. lost nine oilrigs last week, bringing the total to 824. When compared to last year at this time, there are 20 more rigs this year.
Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.