Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wow -- Gas Market is Looking Scary

For those of you who want to keep up with the real underpinnings of the oil market, read This Week in Petroleum. Its issued every Wednesday and it has the latest information on US stockpiles, reserves and oil production.

The latest report has some pretty interesting charts.

First there is this chart of gas prices.

What this tells us is retail gas prices are at least 50 cents higher per gallon this year than they were at the same time last year. (But remember -- inflation is under control.) Gas prices are usually seasonal in nature; they rise before the summer driving season and fall after the summer ends. That's not happening this year -- at least not yet. At this point I have to wonder whether these prices are going to impact the holiday season's shopping plans.

There are two other charts in the report that are very interesting.

Oil stocks are decreasing. This is the amount of crude oil on hand that is used in the production of oil based products. US oil inventories have been declining on a consistent basis since mid-summer. Why this is I don't know. It's also important to note that we're at the top end of the historical inventory range, so we're far from crisis levels. But the consistent decline is interesting to say the least.

Gas stocks -- the amount of gasoline that is on hand to sell to consumers -- is at a low level. I don't know why gas production is down, but it is. This is one of the reasons why are seeing retail level gas prices so high compared to last year.

The low level of gasoline inventories should raise serious concerns going forward. The figures in general indicate something in the oil market is not working as it should. I don't know what that something is -- and it could just as easily be a combination of things. But, there is something not right at present.