Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jump at the Pump

Think gasoline prices have been going up a lot lately? You'd be correct. A Washington Post article says the average price of a gallon of gas jumped by 18 cents in the past week, the biggest one-week jump since the Energy Department began compiling the data 15 years ago. The average national price of a gallon of regular was up 36 percent over a year ago.

And it could get worse:

Prices are rising partly because drivers are taking to the road during the summer's peak travel period. The increased demand for gas comes as supplies have tightened and refineries are grappling with problems that have cut production, analysts said.

Crude oil prices, the biggest component of gasoline prices, have been climbing as well and remain above $66 a barrel. In recent days, gasoline prices on the futures market have shot up even faster than oil, and that has translated into the rapid surge in prices at the pump.

Gasoline prices could climb another 5 to 15 cents through Labor Day even if oil prices do not rise, analysts said. Prices should fall after the holiday, when demand typically drops, said Tom Kloza, chief analyst for the Oil Price Information Service of Lakewood, N.J.

"I absolutely do not believe we will stay at these numbers," Kloza said.

And yet oil companies are reporting record profits:
The largest United States-based oil company, Exxon Mobil Corp., reported last month that its second-quarter profit was up 32 percent, to $7.64 billion.

But the L.A. Times reports oil prices dropped on Wednesday:
Crude oil prices fell nearly $3 a barrel Wednesday as new inventory and demand data eased concerns about summertime fuel supplies and traders pocketed profits from the oil market's dramatic run-up in recent weeks.

How long do you think it will take stations to adjust their prices downward?