What is the Hidden Variable in Gas Pricing Lately?

Comment on the June 9 prediction: Well, that was completely WRONG, as prices shot up to $3.69 before I spotted $2.99 anywhere. I think we got down to $3.06. Yes, that’s quite a range.

Sunday, June 16, 2024, 9 AM: To put it mildly, I was surprised as prices reset to $3.69 on Tuesday, June 11. I saw this number posted at a Speedway in Kent County at 7AM that day and thought someone had made a mistake. No mistake, and everyone appeared to follow suit, except for Costco which held near $3 a gallon, which is a good estimate for the 0-cent margin price. There are a few $3.19’s in Jenison this morning. And, in some places, it is cheaper to buy a gallon of diesel. That is rarely true.

Based on what I monitor when it comes to wholesale prices (e.g. NYMEX), last Tuesday’s hike didn’t make a lot of sense. But, I’ve been saying this for a while in 2024. We have watched Big M, Big Red, and their friends be more aggressive in their retail pricing in that price restorations. Instead of going from “no margin” to “some margin”, we have been experiencing moves from “some margin” to “a lot of margin”. That tells me there is some (new?) hidden variable to tease out of our Gas Game work, and right now I don’t know what that is. Are there some new costs in the system (e.g. transportation of fuel from refineries), some new direction from executive suites to squeeze more profits out of gasoline sales (vs. snacks and drinks), or soemthing else?

We won’t answer that question today, and as far as this coming week, as there is a lot of room between the Grand Rapids average of $3.61 and Costco-like pricing near $3, I think you can be patient to wait for lower prices. -EA

Updated: June 16, 2024 — 9:27 am

18 Comments

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  1. I was shocked, too! You sounded confident and I was hoping for 2.999. Don’t think it broke 3.20 on the lakeshore.

  2. GasBuddy has not handled the past two hikes well in Grand Rapids where 40 to 60 cent increases occurred. Several stations would show a new hiked price only for the price to be reverted a few hours later to a pre-hike price report. Server sync problems? Algorithm needs adjusting? Who knows. I wouldn’t be surprised if those Jenison 3.19 prices are incorrect especially if the reported midgrade price is a full dollar more.

  3. The hike here in IL, just 20c higher than there was definitely not stretching margins, considering higher tax plus 25c or so higher wholesale for our boutique blend. But we did have a couple earlier ones with 20c higher margins. Like you I wonder about the hidden variable. It doesn’t make sense that they would be setting post hike margins so erratically. I keep looking for clues in the Gasbuddy twitter feed

  4. Early morning hike in Indy area to $3.699.

  5. Up another 20c from last Thursday…$4.09-4.19in Chicagoland. Saw a mention on Twitter of Whiting “moving uo”their turnaround. No idea when that would be.

  6. Ohio going to $3.699 today and Indianapolis area to $3.799.

  7. 3.899 @ Speedway in Grayling this afternoon.

  8. 3rd hike in 11 days here in IL $3.89-4.09-4.19. Wholesale and spot were only up a dime since the first hike.

  9. Independence day will be independent of gasoline for me.

  10. South Bend IN – $3.79 spike underway. ND Speedway up $0.44 since yesterday to $3.79. SBN avg $3.38. Costco $3.06.

    Niles MI – WMT $3.29

  11. Niles MI – WMT now up .60 today to $3.89

  12. Hike to 3.89 in Grand Rapids on Monday. GasBuddy’s algorithms are removing a lot of valid reports again. I know they’re trying to combat false reports but the knobs seem to be dialed in a way to not believe that our prices can go up 60 cents in a day.

  13. Niles MI – WMT now down .10 to $3.79 to be with the SBN prices a few miles south. 3 other Niles MI stations now $3.89 & 4 at $3.49.

    South Bend IN avg now $3.52. Costco still $3.06.

  14. I remain convinced that something is seriously wrong with GasBuddy. We are the fifth day into a universal hike to 3.79-3.89 in the Grand Rapids area and there are still price reports in the 3.20s to 3.40s being favored by the algorithms, even supposedly less-than-day-old reports by various users. Also no alert from GasBuddy that prices were rising, for this hike or the one previous. It’s like I’m living in a displaced parallel universe.

  15. South Bend IN – ND Speedway now down from $3.79 to $3.55, still +.20 from the start of the week.
    South Bend IN avg now $3.59. Costco $3.25 (was $3.06).

    Niles MI – WMT $3.47 (was $3.29 & spiked to $3.89). Several others in Niles MI at $3.89.

  16. Not all locations are playing the inflated margins game. 2 in Anderson Indiana were $3.29 this morning. South of the Ohio river in Kentucky had $2.75 in Owensboro. Greedflation in play.

  17. Cory. I agree about Gasbuddy issues. It seems like inputs from the app and the web site don’t play well together. Been going on for at least a year, After each recent hike, I’ve updated with new higher prices, via the App only to find the website price doesn’t change or it changes and reverts to the old price a few hours later even when the app price shows correctly.. Repeatedly. There is a Meijier that shows up on my favorite list on the web site. Its $3.58 price has persisted through the last 3 Speedway hikes to $3.89, 4.09 and $4.19. I know that is not right especially when all nearby stations shows as $3.99-4.09. But I have not been by in a long time so I let it ride. On the flipside, when prices start dropping and I post lower prices the same old prices sometimes reappear.

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