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Economic Forecasts

Gasoline Prices to Trend Lower

Kiplinger's latest forecast on the direction of energy prices

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GDP 1.4% growth for the year; a 2% pace in '17 More »
Jobs Hiring at 150K-200K/month through '16 More »
Interest rates 10-year T-notes at 1.4% by end '16 More »
Inflation 1.7% for '16, 2.4% in '17 More »
Business spending Flat in '16, slight gain in '17 More »
Energy Crude oil trading from $40 to $45 per barrel in Dec. More »
Housing Prices up 5% in '16, 6% in '17 nationally More »
Retail sales Growing 3.4% in '16 and '17 (excluding gas) More »
Trade deficit Widening 4% in '16, after a 6.2% increase in '15 More »

OPEC seems to have disappointed oil markets yet again. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rallied midweek, partly on hopes that the upcoming OPEC meeting in Algeria might finally yield an agreement among members of the oil cartel to limit their production and help prop up prices. But comments from officials of key member nations indicated that no such deal is likely, meaning that the world will remain awash in excess oil for the foreseeable future. That sent WTI prices back to $45 per barrel, near where they’ve been trading in recent weeks.

Oil prices figure to remain volatile but are unlikely to make any sustained moves, either up or down. We see WTI continuing to trade mostly in a range of $40 to $45 per barrel this fall, little changed from the late summer. Global oil stockpiles remain high and oil demand just isn’t growing fast enough to soak up the excess supply anytime soon.

See Also: All Our Economic Outlooks

Gasoline prices jumped this week, as expected. But the spike should be ready to reverse now. Last week’s shutdown of a major gasoline pipeline caused some headaches for motorists in the Southeast and helped to push the national average price of regular unleaded up 3 pennies, to $2.21 per gallon. Now that the pipeline is up and running again, look for the national average price to recede toward $2 per gallon. Diesel, now averaging $2.36 per gallon, is unlikely to move much in coming weeks.

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Natural gas prices are trying to rally, but probably are due for a pullback. At about $3 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), the benchmark gas futures contract is near its highest level in months. But mild fall weather across much of the country means that demand for gas should be mild, too. Air conditioners won’t be running much, which means less gas burned by power plants. But the weather is probably still too warm for most folks to need their furnaces yet. That should allow surplus gas production to pile up in storage and lower prices a bit. We look for gas to trade from $2.50 to $2.75 per MMBtu during early autumn.

Via E-mail: Energy Alerts from Kiplinger

Source: Department of Energy, Price Statistics