TRANSPORTATION

Gas up 6 cents in R.I.

BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/VICTOR J. BLUE
RHODE ISLAND'S gasoline prices are up six cents this week, according to AAA Southern New England.
Posted 3/26/12

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s gasoline prices increased 6 cents over the last week, according to AAA Southern New England.

The cost of self-serve, unleaded regular averaged $3.88 per gallon – 6 cents more than last week and a gain of 10 cents over the last month – according to the trade group’s weekly survey of Rhode Island’s pump prices.

Prices ranged from $4.02 per gallon for midgrade unleaded to $4.15 for premium and $4.22 for diesel.

Even with the 6 cent increase, Rhode Island is 2 cents below the $3.90 national average for a gallon of self-pump regular unleaded. A year ago, gas in the Ocean State cost an average $3.57 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

Gas prices in Massachusetts rose by 3 cents over the last week to $3.77 per gallon for unleaded regular, 13 cents below the national average for self-serve unleaded.

A year ago at this time, the Massachusetts average price for a gallon of gas was $3.47.

Oil prices

Fuel prices in commodity trading rose as West Texas Intermediate crude in New York has gained 8.1 percent this year and Brent oil in London has surged 16 percent. The front-month crude contract on the Nymex fell 53 cents to $106.81 a barrel in the two weeks ended March 23, while Brent oil in London declined 85 cents to $125.13.

Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 1.6 percent to $3.3852 a gallon in the two weeks ended March 23. That’s the highest settlement since April 29, when prices reached $3.4648, the highest closing price of 2011.

Futures have climbed 26 percent this year, making gasoline the best performer in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI index of 24 commodities. Prices have surged on speculation that refinery closings will tighten supplies and as crude rose on concern that tensions with Iran over its nuclear program would reduce oil supplies.

Gasoline inventories

U.S. gasoline stockpiles fell 1.21 million barrels to a 10-week low of 226.9 million in the week ended March 16, according to Energy Department data. Gasoline demand over the prior four weeks was 7.8 percent below a year earlier.

Retail demand this year through March 16 was 5.6 percent lower than the same period in 2011, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse report on March 20. That’s the biggest decline for this time of the year in SpendingPulse records, dating back to 2004.

“If crude oil prices don’t spike right now there’s a very good chance that retail prices may peak,” Trilby Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Survey, told Bloomberg. “It would take another crude oil spike to send retail prices up further.”

Oil may decrease next week after U.S. fuel consumption declined and Saudi Arabia said it can increase output immediately, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Seventeen of 30 analysts, or 57 percent, forecast oil will fall through March 30. Four respondents, or 13 percent, predicted prices will rise and nine estimated there will be little change. Last week, 53 percent expected a decline.

The highest price for unleaded regular in the lower 48 U.S. states among the cities surveyed was in Chicago, where the average was $4.56 a gallon Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Tulsa, Okla., where customers paid an average of $3.58 a gallon.

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