Bloomberg News

U.S. Gasoline Declines to $3.24 a Gallon, Lundberg Survey Shows

December 20, 2011

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. filling stations fell 5.25 cents to $3.2393 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The price decline covers the two-week period ended Dec. 16 and is based on the company’s survey of about 2,500 stations.

“Unknowns about the European debt crisis seem to have made oil prices skittish, and it is the cause of continued declines at the pump,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey in Camarillo, California, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The U.S. gasoline market continues to receive down pressure from falling gasoline demand.”

Gasoline for January delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 12.92 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $2.487 a gallon in the two weeks ended Dec. 16.

U.S. gasoline stockpiles jumped 3.82 million barrels to 218.8 million in the week ended Dec. 9, the highest level since March, the Energy Department reported Dec. 14. Inventories have risen 14.7 million barrels, or 7.2 percent, in five weeks of gains.

Measured on a four-week average, demand, or deliveries to wholesalers, was 4.5 percent below a year earlier, compared with a 3.5 percent deficit the prior week. The four-week average of total fuel supplied was 5.6 percent below 2010.

Declining Demand

Gasoline demand at the pump in the week ended Dec. 9 was 8.76 million barrels a day, down 4.6 percent from a year earlier, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse report on Dec. 13. Year-to-date demand is down 1.6 percent from a year earlier.

The front-month crude oil contract declined $7.43, or 7.4 percent, in the two weeks ended Dec. 16 to settle at $93.53.

Crude prices may fall this week on expectation that the European debt crisis will worsen and reduce fuel demand.

Nine of 17 analysts, or 53 percent, forecast oil will slide through Dec. 23. Six respondents, or 35 percent, predicted a gain and two estimated there will be little change. Last week, 41 percent of surveyed analysts projected a drop.

Crude oil supplies fell 1.93 million barrels to 334.2 million in the week ended Dec. 9, according to the Energy Department. Inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for New York-traded West Texas Intermediate oil, rose 83,000 barrels to 31.2 million.

On Long Island, regular gasoline averaged $3.55 a gallon in the latest survey, Lundberg said. Los Angeles-area retail stations averaged $3.52 a gallon.

The highest price in the lower 48 U.S. states among the cities surveyed was in San Francisco, where customers paid an average of $3.57 a gallon. The lowest price was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a gallon averaged $2.83, Lundberg said.

--With assistance from Mark Shenk in New York. Editors: Charlotte Porter, David Marino.

To contact the reporters on this story: Moming Zhou in New York at mzhou29@bloomberg.net; Barbara J Powell in Dallas at bpowell4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net


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