Friday, April 25, 2014

Corner station camped out in No Man's Land

It's now Friday at Midnight, which means it's time to check my forecast in Another engagement in the gas price war goes as predicted, when I asked "How about the next prediction?"
The next question becomes what is GasBuddy indicating for the trend?  The national average has continued up slowly and is now between $3.61 and $3.62.  The Detroit average bounced up on Monday to $3.75 and is now between $3.76 and $3.77.  Even if the latter price ends up being the peak for the week, so long as the slow decline that would follow keeps the price above $3.75, the neighborhood stations will still be underpriced and I would expect the next jump would be to $3.69.  That could happen this weekend to take advantage of Easter weekend travel, but I would think it more likely early next week.  Stay tuned.
The national average is still creeping up and is now between $3.62 and $3.63.  Meanwhile, the Detroit average has dropped below $3.75.  The neighborhood stations are no longer underpriced, so I no longer think they'll raise prices before the Easter weekend.  The earliest move should be early next week.  Based on the national average continuing its steady rise, I still think $3.69 is in the cards.
I was right about no price rise before Easter.  All the neighborhood stations remained at $3.65 until Tuesday.  I took advantage of that and filled up Yuki Monday evening.  Good thing I did, as the corner station raised its price up to $3.89 Tuesday evening.  I wasn't surprised, as it had charged to the same location earlier this month.  Meanwhile the three stations down the street held firm at $3.65.  Normally, the three stations a few blocks away would have raised their prices slightly and waited for the corner station to match them.  That hasn't happened so far this week.

Tonight, the three stations a few blocks away are still at $3.65, while the corner station has only dropped to $3.85.  No one is at the $3.69 I predicted last week.  About the best I can do is point out that the average of three stations selling at $3.65 and one station selling at $3.85 is $3.70.  Yeah, I called the mean price to within a penny, but that's not what I really meant or expected last week.  I still have two days for all four outlets to equalize this week, but I'm beginning to wonder.  I'm having trouble remembering when the corner station last defended a price increase this stubbornly.

As for the underlying trends, the national average continues to creep up.  It's now at $3.65.  Look, local gas at the national average!  Meanwhile, the Detroit average is now at $3.79.  The three stations down the street are definitely underpriced and should be selling at $3.69.  I'd be surprised if they do that tomorrow, but it's possible.  I think it's more likely that they'll raise prices on Tuesday or Wednesday.

By the way, it isn't the price of crude that's driving this increase.  Despite Reuters' scary headline, Brent crude rises over $1 on Ukraine war of words, Brent crude has gone sideways, while WTI is actually slightly down since last week.  The report I quoted last week had Brent closing at $109.53 a barrel after earlier hitting a high of $110.19, while WTI settled at $104.30 a barrel after earlier hitting a high of $104.78 a barrel.  Yesterday, Brent crude settled at $110.33 while U.S. crude closed at $101.94.  As I wrote, despite today's jumps of $1.22 for Brent and 50 cents for WTI, sideways and down.

Instead, it's gasoline.  The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that "front-month May reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, was up 0.3% at $3.1023 a gallon."  Last week, RBOB for May delivery was $3.0547 a gallon.  That's a nickel higher, which is not insignificant.  Looks like the U.S., or at least parts of it, is suffering a gasoline shortage.  Reuters confirms this in Customs about-face could make Bahamas key source for U.S. gasoline, mentioning shipping gasoline from an "oversupplied U.S. Gulf Coast to the gasoline-thirsty East Coast."  Until that's resolved, expect gasoline prices to continue rising.

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