The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly data on diesel and gasoline retail prices for the week ended March 2, 2020. Gasoline and diesel prices both fell. Diesel prices fell by 3.1 cents/gallon. Gasoline prices fell by 4.3 cents/gallon. The national average price for gasoline was $2.423/gallon, which was a mere 0.001 cent/gallon above the price for the same week one year ago. Until November, gasoline prices had been below their levels from last year. Diesel prices had been above last year’s level also, but the recent downward price path has now sent diesel prices back below their levels of last year. On a national average basis, the retail price for diesel averaged $2.851/gallon, which was 22.5 cents/gallon lower than the price in the same week last year.

Retail prices for diesel have now fallen for eight consecutive weeks, shedding a total of 19.7 cents/gallon. Gasoline prices resumed a downward trend after two weeks of price gains.

Futures Prices and Retail Price Outlook

During the week February 24, 2020 to February 28, 2020, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures prices plunged by $6.11/barrel (11.6%.) Gasoline futures prices dropped by 13.58 cents/gallon (8.3%.) Diesel futures prices collapsed by 19.41 cents/gallon (11.6%.) The international spreading of coronavirus 2019-nCoV, now being called SARS-CoV-2, caused retrenchment. The week beginning Monday February 24 brought the most severe market downturn since the global financial crisis. As of Tuesday March 3, markets are seeing a bounce-back, but prices remain depressed relative to their levels of two weeks ago. WTI futures prices have fallen below $48/b. While the relationship between futures prices and retail prices is not immediate or one-for-one, the sharp retreat in futures prices likely portends a decrease in gasoline and diesel retail prices in the coming week.

 

Retail Diesel Prices

Retail prices for diesel have now fallen for eight consecutive weeks, shedding a total of 22.8 cents/gallon. For the current week ended March 2, retail diesel prices fell by 3.1 cents to settle at an average price of $2.851/gallon. Retail diesel prices had been below the $3/gallon mark until the attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities in mid-September. They remained above the $3/gallon mark until the first week of February. For the current week ended March 2nd, diesel prices fell in all PADDs countrywide. The national average price for the week was 22.5 cents/gallon below where it was during the same week last year.

In the East Coast PADD 1, diesel prices fell by 3.3 cents to settle at an average price of $2.898/gallon. Within PADD 1, New England prices fell by 3.8 cents to average $3.023/gallon. Central Atlantic diesel prices declined by 3.6 cents to average $3.081/gallon. Lower Atlantic prices fell by 3.1 cents to an average price of $2.748/gallon. PADD 1 prices were 22.1 cents/gallon below their levels for the same week last year.

In the Midwest PADD 2 market, retail diesel prices fell by 3.1 cents to average $2.725/gallon. Prices were 28.9 cents below their level for the same week last year. PADD 2 joined PADD 3 during the week ended June 17th in having diesel prices fall below $3/gallon. Prices subsequently fell below $3/gallon in PADD 4 and PADD 1. PADD 5 is the only region where diesel prices remain above $3/gallon.

In the Gulf Coast PADD 3, retail diesel prices fell by 2.7 cents to arrive at an average of $2.627/gallon. PADD 3 continues to have the lowest diesel prices among the PADDs, currently 22.4 cents below the U.S. average. Prices were 24.3 cents below their level for the same week in the previous year.

In the Rocky Mountains PADD 4 market, retail diesel prices fell by 2.3 cents to settle at an average of $2.826/gallon. PADD 4 prices were 11.3 cents lower than for the same week in the prior year.

In the West Coast PADD 5 market, retail diesel prices fell by 3.5 cents to average $3.424/gallon. This was the largest price drop among the PADDs. PADD 5 prices were 7.9 cents below their level from last year. Until December 2019, PADD 5 had been the only district where diesel prices were higher than they were in the same week last year. Prices rose until this was true in all other PADDs, but prices have been falling steadily, and the national average price is now below its level of last year. Prices excluding California fell by 1.8 cents to arrive at an average of $3.054/gallon. This price was 10.1 cents below the retail price for the same week last year. California diesel prices dropped by 5.0 cents to settle at an average price of $3.728/gallon. Until the week ended June 24, California had been the only major market where diesel prices were above $4/gallon, where they had been for nine weeks. California prices retreated below $4/gallon from July through October, rose above $4/gallon again during the first three weeks of November, and eased since then. California diesel prices were 5.1 cents lower than they were at the same week last year.

 

Retail Gasoline Prices

Retail gasoline prices fell by 4.3 cents/gallon to average $2.423/gallon during the week ended March 2. Prices fell in all PADDs. Retail prices for the current week were a mere 0.1 cent per gallon higher than they were one year ago. Until November, gasoline prices had been below their levels of last year. Prices then rose to surpass last year’s levels in all PADDs. The recent price downturn is now changing this.

Gasoline prices hit a peak of $2.903/gallon during the week ended October 8, 2018. Prices then slid downward for fourteen weeks in a row, shedding a total of 66.6 cents per gallon. In the next seventeen weeks, prices marched back up by 66.0 cents/gallon. Prices came very close to the peak they hit in early October. However, the months of May and the June brought an easing of prices amounting to 23.3 cents per gallon. The week ended July 1st reversed that downward trend and sent prices up once again. Yet crude prices are currently easing, and gasoline prices are following.

For the current week ended March 2nd, East Coast PADD 1 gasoline retail prices fell by 4.9 cents to reach an average of $2.351/gallon. The average price was 3.4 cents/gallon below where it was during the same week last year. Within PADD 1, New England prices decreased by 2.0 cents to average $2.437/gallon. Central Atlantic market prices fell by 3.7 cents, arriving at an average of $2.502/gallon. Prices in the Lower Atlantic market dropped by 6.4 cents to average $2.233/gallon.

In the Midwest PADD 2 market, retail gasoline prices fell by 5.5 cents to average $2.300/gallon. This was the largest price drop among the PADDs. PADD 2 prices for the current week were 2.9 cents/gallon lower than they were for the same week last year.

In the Gulf Coast PADD 3 market, gasoline prices fell by 3.9 cents to average $2.112/gallon. PADD 3 continues to have the lowest average prices among the PADDs, currently 31.1 cents/gallon below the average U.S. price. Prices for the week were 6.9 cents lower than for the same week last year.

In the Rocky Mountains PADD 4 market, gasoline pump prices declined by 2.1 cents to settle at an average price of $2.419/gallon. This week’s PADD 4 prices were 20.7 cents higher than at the same time last year.

In the West Coast PADD 5 market, retail gasoline prices eased by 0.8 cents to average $3.132/gallon. This was 18.7 cents higher than last year’s price. Prices excluding California fell by 1.1 cents to average $2.875/gallon, which was 23.1 cents/gallon above last year’s price. California prices declined by 0.7 cents to average $3.353/gallon. California prices rose dramatically in late September and early October, attributed to refinery issues, hitting levels above $4/gallon. Prices then began a sustained retreat. The current week, however, brought a refinery fire, and it is possible that the price decline will flatten. California prices were 15.8 cents per gallon above their levels from the same week last year. Until November, PADD 5 had been the only PADD where prices were higher than they were one year ago. The other PADDs caught up, and prices were higher in all PADDs countrywide until this week, when prices in PADDs 1, 2 and 3 fell below last year’s levels.