AAA anticipates gas fluctuations as markets weigh coronavirus effects
By: Ragina C. Ali, AAA Mid-Atlantic
Drivers are feeling the love as they fill up this Valentine’s Day. Many local prices dropped again this week as oil prices remained lower, gas inventories on the East Coast increased slightly and demand for gasoline stayed at a typical lower wintertime level. Optimism over the possible peak of the coronavirus’ spread caused a spike in oil and gas prices earlier in the week, reaching some gas pumps in Maryland on Friday. However, until the international public health threat declines and China recovers from the virus’ impacts, crude prices are likely to remain lower.
The gas price average in Maryland today is $2.33, which is the same as last week, down 19 cents in the last month, and up 11 cents from this date last year.
Today’s national gas price average is $2.43, down respectively a penny in the last week and 14 cents in the last month, and up 15 cents from this time last year.
CURRENT AND PAST GAS PRICE AVERAGES
Regular Unleaded Gasoline
|Today||Week Ago||Month Ago||Year Ago|
|Washington Suburbs(MD only)||$2.44||$2.46||$2.60||$2.31|
|Crude Oil||$52.05per barrel(2/14/20)||$50.32per barrel(2/7/20)||$58.54per barrel(1/17/20)||$55.59per barrel(2/15/19)|
At the close of NYMEX trading Friday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil settled at $52.05 per barrel, $1.73 higher than last Friday’s close. The continued anxiety over the spread of the coronavirus is causing some bounces in crude oil prices. Settlement prices have dropped below the $50 mark three times in the last 10 days, but rebounded over $51 three days this week. Late this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that quarterly worldwide oil demand will shrink for the first time in more than a decade, adding to concern over the global energy outlook.
“While many drivers saw a decrease at the pump for another week, prices may increase following market optimism earlier this week that the coronavirus had peaked,” says Ragina C. Ali, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “However, motorists may see fluctuation in gas prices as that optimism has since faded regarding the virus’ status.”
The Week Ahead
Tuesday’s massive fire at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is unlikely to affect U.S. gasoline prices. Preliminary reports from Exxon say there is no impact to the gas terminal, which would mean no impact on gas prices. Many refineries undergo seasonal maintenance ahead of the busy summer driving season and the Exxon refinery had not been expected to run at 100 percent.