Posted in: Forecasts,
by Patrick DeHaan on Feb 10, 2010 02:06 PM
There's one area of the country that will be enjoying falling prices while the rest of the country sees prices remaining stable or rising this weekend.
Wholesale gasoline prices in the Midwest have seen significant losses, and refiners there may begin to lose money refining oil into gasoline this weekend. Today, the crack margin, or profit from turning oil into usable products, fell to just $1.64 per barrel. After operational costs are added, the margin is likely close to nothing- meaning refiners make no money or may even lose money on refining oil into gasoline and other products.
The low cost in the Midwest reflects poor demand and high supply with too much spare capacity. It is also possible that refineries may close completely for maintenance rather than partially shut to improve crack spreads in the near future.
Chicago spot prices for regular unleaded gasoline were under $1.75 around noon today, much lower than the next closest region- Group 3, where gasoline could be sought for $1.82. Often I call this condition the "Chicago Discount". Chicago wholesale gasoline prices are currently running near fifteen cents cheaper than New York Harbor prices.
While this means a lower wholesale cost to stations, it doesn't necessarily mean that stations will immediately lower their price. The process will take a few days. However, stations would be well advised to purchase fuel today to take advantage of the lower price and pass that price onto motorists.
It wouldn't surprise me to see the lowest price in the Midwest this weekend around $2.25/gallon, so I would shop around before filling up completely.
Since Monday, wholesale prices have moved higher in almost every area excluding the Midwest, so it wouldn't be surprising if stations bump up retail prices to reflect a higher wholesale cost in these other areas.
With the DOE report being released on Friday this week due to the winter storms, we may see even higher prices this weekend, but according to the API, we may see a large build in crude inventories. This would be excellent news for motorists and would likely mean lower pump prices across the country.