Posted in: Commentary,
by Patrick DeHaan on Feb 2, 2010 11:04 AM
Psst- first off, this post contains a bit of sarcasm. Take in stride please- of course an animal isn't to blame! Sadly, it looks like the decline we've seen in gasoline prices since mid-January may soon come to an end. Gasoline prices have declined from their peak of $2.758 on January 14 to $2.65 today. Unfortunately, crude oil prices have reversed their losses and stand just over $75/barrel.
Perhaps we can blame the root of the rising prices on a groundhog- the "legendary" Punxsutawney Phil who this morning "predicted" that we would see an additional six weeks of winter. In agreement with Groundhog Phil, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is making a similar prediction for the Northeast and East Coast. The worry is that with the colder weather, we'll see an increased demand for distillate fuels. However, poor Punxsutawney Phil doesn't deserve the blame- it's up to Commodities Traders and fuel station purchasers to dictate where gasoline prices go, and between yesterday and today, we've seen wholesale prices rise five to seven cents per gallon. You can bet stations will be eager to raise prices the moment their prices rise as well, so as to not lose money on their main product.
The CPC shows a high probability of lower than average temperatures from Florida to Maine stretching west to Alabama and up though Ohio for next week though February 11, and also shows risk of that colder weather stretching through the 15th, driving concern that we'll see increased demand for oil products, and therefore pushing gasoline prices up.
Some may view this statement as speculation, and I suppose it could be categorized as such, but when we're under a likely situation that will bring colder weather, you can almost be guaranteed oil prices will rise, just as they rise when I sneeze each Spring (okay, that sneeze part was a joke).
Today's GasBuddy numbers show average prices in the U.S. of $2.65 today, and by mid-February, we could be back approaching $2.75-$2.80, it just depends on how long the colder temperatures last.
We're also seeing the stock market pull higher, which as of the last year or so, generally indicates that oil prices will rise. Apparently traders view that if the market rises, it means profits are up, which means that we're out spending out our life savings, which results in higher oil demand (which obviously is not true, and shows how disconnected oil prices are from reality).
The dollar has strengthened, which traditionally means lower oil prices, but apparently some are suffering the same fate as "Forgetful Jones", meaning that while the dollar has strengthened recently, it is losing value today- and that makes a greater impact than the recent rally. (Forgetful Jones is a Sesame Street character described as a cowboy who had difficulty remembering things)
So after everything is said- fundamentals paint a picture of weak demand and healthy supply, which is good for motorists, but the market is paying more attention to the tiny loss in value of the dollar, a chance of colder weather, and the magic eight ball- which apparently sees higher oil prices). Just be prepared for when and if it happens.