The U.S. average gasoline price for regular grade gasoline declined to $2.21 per gallon as of January 5, 2014, down nine cents from the previous week and lower by $1.12 per gallon year over year. For the first time since 2009, two regions within the United States have average prices below $2 per gallon, which include both the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Despite increasing demand, overwhelming supply continues to weigh on prices.
Demand has increased due to lower prices and more Americans getting back to work. According to the latest reading from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Nonfarm payrolls increased 252k in December, which was stronger than expected. This compares to an upwardly revised 353k in November and the 261k in October. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% from 5.8%, the lowest since June 2008.
Despite the strong number the most interesting piece of information was the change in earnings. Average hourly earnings fell 0.2% after a downwardly revised November figure to 0.2% from 0.4%. This means that many of the new jobs created were lower paying jobs. A decline in hourly earnings further reduces how much people are willing to spend on gasoline unless there is a price drop similar to what has been recently experienced by the petroleum markets.
The demand front has been solid. According to the latest report from the Energy Information Administration, over the last four weeks, gasoline demand averaged over 9.3 million barrels per day, up by 5.5% from the same period last year.
The monthly technical picture is a robust guide to were prices are likely heading. Target support on a monthly basis is seen near an upward sloping trend line that comes in near 1.02. Momentum remains negative with the MACD (moving average convergence divergence) index generating a sell signal mid-year and continuing to point to lower prices. The RSI (relative strength index) on the other hand is printing a reading of 25, which is below the oversold trigger level of 30 and could foreshadow a correction.
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