Someone is Creating A Price Hike

Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 5:15PM:  Some sort of end-of-month/end-of-quarter monkey business in the Chicago gasoline markets today.  Wholesale prices soared, and while I am certain they will go back down tomorrow or Thursday, that won’t prevent a price hike tomorrow.  Estimated new price:  $2.95 in Michigan. –Ed A.

Updated: June 30, 2015 — 5:15 pm

32 Comments

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  1. By my reckoning, Ohio should skate by. Michigan should also get a pass, but it will be close. Indiana? We may be hit, and yeah, $2.90s are likely. But I temper that with this. It’s a refiner and trader asking for prompt delivery. It may fall tomorrow. Or if it was a big enough order (I didn’t see what the volume of their purchasing was) it may drive up prices in the short term, meaning it may not go down for a week. It will be interesting to see.

  2. Seeing movement at Speedway already this morning… Going to 2.89 in Indy/most of Indiana and $2.99 for sure in Michigan… Maybe $2.89 in Ohio as well

  3. My kitten is singlehandedly responsible for the shortage of a particular flavor of premium kitten canned food at the local pet store. He will NOT eat anything else so every week I clean the shelf, causing a dramatic surge in demand.

    Strange that the local pet store not only does not raise prices as demand surges, but they actually signed me up for their Kitty Rewards program saving me 20c a can. Plus occasional $3.00 off via coupons. I feel I am really winning the game!!

    In all seriousness, since demand for gasoline is relatively stable, all things considered, why the reliance on the easy to manipulate spot prices vs longer term futures? Do markets for wheat etcetera commodities also run based on spot or on future pricing?

    Seems to me that we have the worst of both worlds on oil – crude and speculation driven futures and refined product with just as speculation driven spot prices…

    If a “large order” is all we need to manipulate prices to that extent then the system needs some reevaluation… Do we really want to move to the next step, “surge pricing”?

  4. I think it’s quite curious because unlike the past few weeks, the midwest inventory report this morning looked pretty good by comparison (gasoline inventories down, but mostly in gulf coast region which always has a surplus cushion so shouldn’t be an issue). Oil inventories up, gasoline down (but up in the midwest to highest levels this time of year in past two years). Refinery untilization highest we’ve seen in months at 96.9% vs 94.9% last week. It makes you wonder why sometimes. I don’t believe in conspiracies, but do appreciate transparency. Did we lose a big refinery this week and they’re staying mum at the moment?

  5. Let’s see, you place a large order and buy at a low price. The price goes up, wow, right before a big travel weekend. Now you are able to get more during that big travel weekend for all that gas you just bought at a lower price. Man I love America. Wonder how many people that used to work at Enron now work for these people…

  6. South Bend, IN going to $2.89, was ~ $2.62.
    Don’t think Niles MI has moved yet $2.74-$2.82

  7. Filled the tank this AM for $2.51 in Grand Rapids. Big boating weekend though and the boat is empty.

  8. Happy Canada Day from GREEDway!

    So far no spike in Ohio. The Cincinnati West Side has just dipped below $2.80 yesterday so there is very little room to stay below $3.00 for the inevitable spike.

  9. some at 2.99 Kazoo area

  10. $2.99 today, and yes, Chicago wholesale prices down 10 cents today. Attention State Attorneys General! There’s your clue.

  11. Ed, State Attorneys General didn’t lift a finger in 20 plus years, I wish they would but I don’t see it happening.

    We were gyped when Whiting was sold to the masses as the project that would help alleviate our chronic supply issues (cough)… We let them built Whiting and what did we gain? More capacity? Nope. More stable prices? Nope. More profits? Well…

    Nice gig if you can get it. $60 crude to shut down domestic production AND $3.00 gasoline.

    At least I have my kitten.

  12. This spike won’t get me as both of my Hondas are filled up with $2.59 gas and it will be awhile before the need arises to tank up since I’m away working with a rental car/company provided fuel.

    Chicago Spot…DOWN
    WTI Crude……DOWN
    Gas Prices…..UP

    I guess the Greedway execs must be having a helluva 4th of July party and they needed our hard earned cash lol

  13. Wholesale cost today was $2.72. Selling gas before today’s spike at $2.63-negative 9 cent/gallon profit. Michigan Senate votes to raise gas tax which will give them over 50 cent/gallon profit (highway tax and sales tax) when fully implemented. Call the Attorney General about gouging.

  14. $3.199 in Crown Point this morning.

  15. Niles MI to $2.99 now

  16. Turbo46032 writes “My kitten is singlehandedly responsible for the shortage of a particular flavor of premium kitten canned food at the local pet store. He will NOT eat anything else so every week I clean the shelf, causing a dramatic surge in demand. ”

    Thank you for adding humor to this site. Laughter is good for the soul.

  17. The AG only so called Warns gas stations and seems to make excuses for them.

  18. Actually we are relatively lucky that the morals of cat food manufacturing don’t extend to gasoline. We can complain about our friends at Speedway all we want but the gasoline they produce and distribute is top notch. I doubt I could say the same 30 years ago when gasoline was a lot more varying in quality.

    Cat food, not so much. Recalls galore, inaccurate labels… And strange prices that are often hard to justify. In other words the free market at work.

  19. At the end of the day, the free market isn’t at work? Gas prices are 90c/gal lower than last year.

  20. There’s free and there’s free.

    North Carolina – taxed nearly identically with Indiana – is enjoying 2.26 gasoline while we will be lucky to find 2.65. 2.55 lowest. Much higher if you’re in a high rent zone.

    That’s 30-40 cents a gallon, Patrick. And we have lots of refineries and supposedly the wildlife is behaving and we have no disruptions.

    And crude at $55. One will need to have rose colored glasses to see the premium as “free market”.

    Averages are meaningless thanks to zone pricing incidentally. GasBuddy reports NC average 10 cents lower than IN but the aggregate gas price map does show a different story.

  21. I see Marathon’s stock is up 2.14% today, just a coincidence? Sure it has nothing to do with gas prices jumping so much in the last week in Greedway states.

  22. Free market? LOLOLOLOLOL
    Not when ONE trading firm can make wholesale gas go up 15 cents in one day.
    Definitely a rigged market.

  23. WTI Crude dropping to the $53.xx range so far today. Might we still get Turbo’s wish of $3 dollar a gallon gas in central Indiana with oil going that low??

  24. Patrick, the anti-corporatists are never going to buy into the truth about free markets. Everything is “rigged” against them based on “greed.” These people have been instructed to hate anything “big” (except for government), and to always play the victim.

    It’s all they know. They show no interest in learning anything beyond those basic tenets.

  25. Turbo, compare apples to apples. North Carolina’s average is $2.64, Indiana’s is $2.77/gal. That’s a 13c/gal difference. Now given that Gulf CBOB is 10c/gal cheaper than Chicago CBOB, that’s a 3c/gal difference. And by tomorrow at this time, Indiana will be at least 4c/gal lower, thus negating your argument. In fact, by Wednesday, Indiana will probably be lower than NC, even though its wholesale is more than double digits above it. By gauging by the most common price in NC ($2.69) and IN ($2.79 but will be $2.69 tomorrow) your argument again, is moot, because the difference in wholesale price, so your claim that its 39 cents or so higher is untrue.

    And crude falling some $4.40 though there hasn’t been one iota of change yet to supply and demand is the exact same when you cry foul if it were to rise $4.40 though there might not be a material change to S&D. And no, average’s aren’t “meaningless” simply because you’ve decided so.

    Also, Mike, Marathon has been split into upstream and downstream.
    MPC was up 1.39% (as crude slid but refining margins held roughly intact)
    MRO was down 2.37% (because of the huge decline in crude prices)
    So I’m not sure which you’re referring to.

    Ren, agreed. Some people just won’t ever get it, and no matter how much fact and evidence you include.

  26. Patrick, please plot a graph of NC vs Indiana prices for the last 6 months. You’ll see that IN is consistently higher. The 10c CBOB price difference? it’s part of the price paid at the pump, I don’t think it can be explained away.

    Price averages are not as relevant as one may think when you consider zone pricing. Look at the price maps. Virtually all of Indiana is yellow or higher (2.77-2.90) and a good part of NC is green (2.51-2.64). The price spread is a lot more than what it’s shown. Costco to Costco, Raleigh vs. Indianapolis, 2.46 vs. 2.61. Lowest state prices, 2.25 vs. 2.50.

    I don’t think you will find anyone in NC that would be willing to swap with us in terms of gas prices.

    Much of the Indianapolis area is at 2.70-2.75 and here we are looking at low 50’s crude. And I seem to recall back in the days of $100 crude that price spikes of such magnitude in crude instantly reflected at the pump, regardless of supply or demand issues.

    And to be honest, I don’t need to “get it”. Thankfully I make enough money that even 50 cents a a gallon is pocket change for me. And I drive a 40mpg car to boot. But as I have pointed out in the past, entire sectors of the economy have been impacted by gas & crude price yo-yos.

    We “get it” and we’re not concerned about the impact of a few dollars on our well lined pockets. We shop sales and use coupons like everyone else. We’re more concerned about the impact to our customers, suppliers, and employees. And above all, we know what we know and what we don’t know. We have the education and experience to not simply wear the corporate blinders but to look deeper and think harder.

  27. The GasBuddy graphs only show the average ASKING price. They do not reflect anything close to what the average price paid is. That is what we are really interested in. For me, what is the average price paid in Fort Wayne. Paid in Toledo? Not everybody in Fort Wayne can buy the day before a spike at Costco and Sams. There just aren’t enough pumps. But there are enough pumps city wide, and at as much as 15¢ a gallon more. And more people are paying that than are paying the lower at Costco, but yet the average on Gas Buddy will be right smack in the middle of the two prices. We all know that would be too complex to actually capture by a free site, but you can bet Marathon knows it, and Speedway knows it. And we feel it.

  28. Wait, the last sentence on item #1 can’t be right. They never do that…

    http://www.cheatsheet.com/automobiles/at-the-pump-6-gasoline-cheats-every-car-owner-should-know.html/?a=viewall

  29. Turbo, so to see if your argument holds water, let’s compare Indiana and North Carolina (why not!) to Oregon, who has a state gas tax that’s about 4.5c/gal lower than IN and NC. Using your logic, Oregon should almost always be lower than IN and NC. However, Oregon has only been cheaper than Indiana for a matter of a week or so in the last year: http://charts.gasbuddy.com/ch.gaschart?Country=Canada&Crude=f&Period=12&Areas=Indiana,NorthCarolina,Oregon&Unit=US%20$/G
    Why doesn’t this hold up?

  30. Patrick, I lived in Oregon for a bit. No self service gasoline, and complete dependency on West Coast sources of gasoline which ain’t cheap.

    NC is just a convenient benchmark to compare with. I could do Kansas or any other Midwestern non Speedway state and adjust for taxes. Lots of 2.40 prices. Add the difference in taxes and still 2.52 or so.

    I know it’s not as bad as I think it is if one is astute enough to buy at Costco or at the low price but not everyone does it. But you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone from KS or NC to switch to our “cyclical” pricing.

  31. The thing with cyclical pricing in this area is, gas prices fall a lot faster than almost every other area. That is why we get spikes up in price like we do.

    As for mid-west, non-Speedway states, try Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, heck, even Kansas. They are pretty close to the same, and follow Indiana up/down pretty much even, too. Use this for adjusting for taxes:

    http://www.api.org/~/media/files/statistics/gasoline-tax-map.pdf

    Of course it’s not as bad as you think. It seems you think the evil corporations are out to get you. I just don’t see it as the case from the data I’ve seen over the past 6 years.

  32. Bill, I don’t disagree with the premise of ‘The Gas Game’. If you play the game you can pay less than the Hoi Polloi, assuming you are listening. (and we are). Or, you can get membership in a Costco or Sam’s and pay a much more stable price that most of the time is the lowest or close to it. Or both, like I do.

    Those who don’t play the game end up paying more for gasoline. Cool. We can laugh at them as they pay $2.89 when we filled up with $2.61 at Costco. Those extra dollars they pay is money they don’t spend elsewhere. I help make stuff that you can buy at stores. Cool stuff that’s bought with disposable income. When my customers spend an extra $30 a month on gasoline, that’s money they don’t spend on my stuff or someone else’s stuff. The pie is fixed size for most common mortals.

    I have been on this site for over a decade, and have seen the best and worst of the oil industry (the best?). I’m also an engineer with a solid understanding of data analysis, so it’s not like I can’t do math. I’m also a 30 year veteran of corporate America, so rest assured, it’s not corporations in general I rail about.

    This site has been around for many years. But to this day, it hasn’t answered the basic question. Why do they do it? There’s my three answers:

    1. Because it’s good for them; it helps drive competition out of business and allows them to sell at higher margins.

    2. It’s half a dozen of this or six of that for them – they do it to bring traffic to the store. Or they do it just to keep the consumer on edge.

    3. They lose money in the process but they do it much like Kohls and JC Penney do sales, that’s their business model and they simply can’t think of doing it any other way.

    The very existence of this site indicates it’s a ‘game’, and maybe it’s just me, but games generally have ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Corporations aren’t in the business to produce ‘winners’, if you get my drift.

    I really don’t think anyone is out to get me – even Tidy Cat litter, which seems to be filling their litter tubs in a very random pattern (hint – pick up several and buy the heaviest). But I do believe that corporations are not as benevolent as some of the free marketeers here seem to think they are.

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