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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lockport-area gas prices are up two cents to $2.217 a gallon, according to AAA East Central’s weekly Fuel Gauge report. The average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline last week, based on reports from 22 stations in the Lockport area, is $2.202. This time last year, gasoline was $2.634 in Lockport. The national average is $2.136.

On the national front, relatively cheap gas prices are boosting driving demand, and 2016 remains poised to be a record year for both gasoline consumption and annual miles traveled. Although pump prices moved higher by two cents per gallon, today’s average price of $2.14 per gallon is the lowest for this calendar date since 2009.

As we enter the summer driving season all eyes will focus on whether refiners can keep pace with the expected increase in demand.  Gasoline demand continues to surpass 2015 year-to-date levels, and as more drivers take to the roads, refiners will work to increase gasoline production to levels that meet this higher demand. This likely means another higher-than-normal year of refinery runs, which can put additional strain on refinery equipment and overall operations. In preparation for the busy summer driving season, a number of refineries are reportedly ramping up production and keeping a close eye on their utilization rates.  Barring any unforeseen challenges in supply and refinery production, drivers are expected to pay some of the lowest prices for the summer months in more than a decade.

The global oil market is at a crossroads and it is a mystery as to where oil prices might head going forward. Market fundamentals continue to point to extreme oversupply, though expectations of global demand growth or production cuts by major oil producers could influence crude oil prices higher.

According to the U.S. EIA, domestic production declined for yet another week, and the U.S. oil rig count also fell for the fifth consecutive week. However, it is important to note that output is falling at a slow pace and is likely to bounce back to previous levels should prices rebound.  As a result of this dynamic, the global oil market is expected to remain well supplied, keeping the price at the pump relatively low compared to previous years. At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, West Texas Intermediate settled at a 2016 high and was up 55 cents at $43.73 per barrel.

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