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Pump prices across US fall on year on higher stocks, imports

Houston — Prices of all gasoline grades were significantly lower on the year, with the average regular-grade gasoline pump prices falling 18 cents to hit $2.61 cents/gal Thursday, according to latest AAA data published Thursday.

Prices in the Gulf Coast and Midwest were leading the charge, with states from these regions featuring the top 10 lowest average prices in the US. Stock gains in the Gulf Coast were a likely contributor to lower pump prices.

According to data published Wednesday by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), total gasoline stocks swelled to 79.06 million barrels for the week ended October 25 from 78.62 million barrels the week prior. Regional refinery net production of finished motor gasoline also saw gains during this time period, with the Midwest climbing to 410,000 b/d from 388,000 b/d, and the Gulf Coast rising to 900,000 b/d from 853,000 b/d.

Gains in crude oil imports have also played an important role in consumer price reduction.

EIA data showed that total crude oil imports averaged 6.7 million b/d during the week ending October 25, adding 840,000 b/d from the week prior. Imports, in turn, have supported gains in total gasoline supplied. The four-week average of motor gasoline product supplied was up as much as 3.4% on the year, with an average daily supply of 9.5 million b/d.

While most regions have relished these lower pump prices, motorists on the West Coast were still paying more than their southern and eastern counterparts.

Refinery issues, losses of power, and large regional fires have pushed the average pump price in California as high as $4.06 cents/gal, nearly $1.50 above the national average. According to data published by Platts, the differential for Los Angeles CARBOB jumped 17 cents on the day, while CARBOB in San Francisco added 15 cents for assessments of NYMEX December RBOB plus 68 cents/gal and futures plus 50 cents/gal, respectively.

However, these lower pump prices may not last long. EIA data showed that lower prices have encouraged increased gasoline consumption, which grew by approximately 520,000 b/d to 9.78 million b/d for the week ended October 25 from prior week's 9.59 million b/d.

Unless production continued to keep pace with increases in demand, motorists may see price gains in the near future.

--Kenneth Raphael, kenneth.raphael@spglobal.com

--Edited by Pankti Mehta, pankti.mehta1@spglobal.com