(c) Patrick DeHaan
Oil has taken a beating in recent days, similar to the beating that the Chicago Cubs took earlier this year, losing 12 consecutive games in a row. While oil prices can't boast the loss record that the Cubs did during that stretch, I don't think anyone will complain. Oil prices today stand at their lowest level since October 4, 2011.
Wholesale gasoline prices are poised to drop, helping to lead to lower gasoline pumps in the days ahead. In a recent check, wholesale prices in the East Coast region are five cents cheaper than they've ever been in the last year. Gulf Coast prices are three cents lower than any point in the last year. California wholesale prices are at the lowest level they've been in the last year, and Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon) are 6-cents per gallon cheaper than any time in the last year. Meanwhile, the Chicago and Mid-Continent prices have to shed more value to come close to their lowest value. Currently, Chicago wholesale is about 20-cents higher than its 52-week low, while Mid-Continent wholesale is about 25-cents higher than its 52-week low. Both of the latter regions are seeing higher prices due to lingering refinery issues that are temporary in nature.
What's this mean for motorists? That the recent decline in gasoline prices will continue. While the reasons why the decline are taking place are worrisome, involving the economy, it doesn't appear that expensive $4+ gasoline will return until the economy is clearly headed for growth, and global geopolitical debt issues are resolved.
In fact, prices could decline even more. Some analysts (not myself) are calling for possibly $20-$30/bbl oil. If those analysts are right, gasoline prices could shed additional value, and we could see a return to late-2008 gasoline prices under $2. Oil production is booming in the United States, refineries have expanded, things are looking up for motorists after a sharp spring time rally in prices.
We're working on a late-2012 forecast for gasoline prices and it's looking rosy for motorists. I'll even give you a sneak peak- we could see many states returning to sub-$3 gasoline (yes, that means a "two handle", Stuart Varney!)
I might just get the tiki torches out and invite some friends over to celebrate... while it lasts.