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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lockport area gas prices are stable, hovering around $1.901 a gallon, according to AAA East Central’s weekly Fuel Gauge report.

The average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline two weeks ago, based on reports from 22 stations in the Lockport area, is $1.990. This time last year, gasoline was $2.500 in Lockport. The national average is $1.945.

Nationally prices have jumped by 12 cents per gallon this week, which is the largest weekly increase since early March 2015. Prices increased by double digits due to a decline in gasoline supplies, relatively strong demand and continued refinery maintenance. Today’s price of $1.94 per gallon is the highest average in two months. Relatively low oil costs continue to provide drivers with year-over-year savings at the pump, and consumers are saving 50 cents per gallon compared to this same date last year.

Prices typically move higher at this time of year as gasoline demand begins to increase and refineries conduct seasonal maintenance. This year’s refinery maintenance season is characterized by lower-than-expected prices for crude oil and ample supplies, which should help keep pump prices relatively low compared to recent years. Prices in some regions may move significantly higher in the near term due to fluctuations in local supply and demand associated with continued maintenance and preparations for summer-blend gasoline in advance of the June 1 deadline for retail facilities to sell the cleaner blend.

Projected reductions in global oil supply and Iran’s slower-than-expected return to the global oil market reportedly contributed to both Brent and West Texas Intermediate closing out the week at 2016 highs. However, oil prices opened this week’s trading session lower on the news that Iran plans to increase oil production significantly. Conversations about when and if the market has reached its bottom persist, and market fundamentals continue to point to supply outpacing demand, which could cause prices to once again turn lower.

The latest data shows that the U.S. oil rig count fell to 386 rigs last week, marking 12 straight weeks of rig-count declines. According to the U.S. EIA, domestic production declined from year-ago levels for the first time in more than four years, largely due to lower-than-expected crude oil prices. Despite this reduction in production, the agency lowered its projections for crude oil prices because domestic production remains more resilient than expected. At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI was up 66 cents and settled at $38.40 per barrel, which marked the fourth straight week of oil price increases.

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