By Chunzi Xu, Bloomberg Markets Live reporter and strategist
US gasoline prices have been insulated from oil’s surge so far amid soft demand and relatively high inventories. But if oil persists at $90/barrel, pump prices are poised to climb.
WTI has rallied about 8% in the past two weeks, with gasoline futures not far behind. Yet pump prices have declined more than 4% in the same period. The physical spot market has been stable or lower in New York and Houston.
This is because implied gasoline demand in the US is about 3% below what it was this time last year and 6% below the five-year average. Meanwhile, inventories have accumulated above seasonal norms. This trend of weak consumption and growing supply is likely to persist into the winter as US refiners emerge from maintenance next month.
But gasoline prices will eventually catch up to the futures market, which is sensitive to oil’s volatility, especially given escalating tensions in the Middle East. And it doesn’t take much for any impact at the pump to reach consumers — average gasoline prices currently stand at $3.558 a gallon, that’s below this time last year but far above than any other year in the last decade.