Soaring Fuel Prices Hit Americans Hard

Guest Post:
By Nick Barile

If you’ve glanced at the big numbers on top of the gasoline pump recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the slow, dreadful escalation of fuel prices.  The majority of Americans are now paying close to $4.00 per gallon of gasoline, which has threatened the economic recovery and pushed many families closer to the brink. Why? Because, like it or not, our world runs on sweet crude oil.

Everything you buy, eat, or interact with is in existence because of oil. Your groceries, your school commute, your laptop- even this article that you’re reading right now- all have a relationship with oil that’s not going to end well. It’s important to understand why fuel prices are so high, and what you- and our country- should do to combat them.

Oil, natural gas, and other commodities’ prices reflect the speculation of investors based on the current environment. Almost all consumables are based on the centuries-old theory of supply and demand. If America is on the road-trip to recovery, then she’s going to have to fill the tank more than sitting idly in the depths of the Recession.

It seems that along with our own economic expansion, we have witnessed a dramatic uptick in the world’s consumption of oil. China and India have been rapidly expanding economically, and population growth has resulted in more vehicles being on the road than ever before.

The instability of the Middle East has also been the culprit for the theft of more American dollars. Revolutions of the Arab Spring have caused fear of a supply disruption, which would bring back the gas shortages of the 1970’s. Even more so, the United States’ increasingly hawkish foreign policy with Iran has led investors to become wary of yet another war fought within sight of oil wells, further causing fear of a drop in supply.

But our government isn’t doing that well in easing tensions. Our continued presence in the Middle East has led to many outbreaks of violence, stressing any political stability to be had. And the Obama Administration’s belligerence towards Iran has caused many near-panics for speculators, as Iran has retaliated with threats to stem the flow of oil out of the Middle East.

Our current policy is the equivalent of throwing water on a grease fire. It may seem the correct thing to do, but in reality, all it does is further spread the flames and result in more problems. If the United States wants to truly prevent political instability, then the government needs to dramatically re-think the interventionist foreign policy it has maintained for the past decade.

Even so, there are countless things to be done at home in order to hopefully quell gas prices’ jumpiness.  The first is a relatively obvious answer: more domestic production. Few will deny the risks of oil exploration. There have been catastrophes, no doubt, but we are on the verge of an economic one if Americans see gas prices upwards of $5 a gallon (not a far-fetched thought at all, as gas prices in Europe hover around $9 per gallon).

Although many advocate higher efficiency standards, it’s important to consider the feasibility of such requirements. The Chevrolet Volt, for instance, a poster-boy for President’s push for alternative energy, has been a spectacular marketing failure because of its price and ROI factor.

Consumers will simply not pay ridiculous sums of money for a car just to lower annual gasoline bills- that would take 27 years to recoup the investment. Even though Europe is a horrible example to follow in terms of production, they have been able to raise their efficiency by using two things: diesel fuel and small scooters/”Vespas”.

Diesel provides for much better fuel economy than its counterpart (capable of hitting near 50 MPG on the highway), and most gas-powered mopeds/scooters can achieve near 100 miles to the gallon. If America were to adapt itself to these things, gas consumption would fall dramatically than our current plans of driving 8 cylinder SUVs to work.

 


While we generally agree with Nick’s pov, we here at DataAnalytics

disagree with a few key points the author made.

Demand for gasoline the U.S. is at a 17 year low, while Europe is at a
decade low. Which more than off-sets the increases in China and India.

Also, the False Inflection points that are utilized by the traders are convenient ‘triggers’ that enable them to raise the prices without any accountability or real proof. The Iranian ‘issues’ were all media and government created, in order to allow the street to drive the prices up during that supposed ‘tense’ period.

Middle-East tensions with regard to oil supply has been something the
market has had to deal with for about 40 years, this is not something new.
But because the media and the government made so much noise about it,
it in turn gave the green-light to speculators, to panic investors and drive
up the Nymex/Cushing contract prices under false pretenses.

DataAnalytics findings reveal that Speculation accounts for approximately (+/-)28% of the price of a barrel of Brent Crude. NOT the 15% the St. Louis Fed came up with. Kevin G. Hall, of McClatchy states, “Oil and gas prices were soaring thanks again in no small part to rampant financial speculation on top of (exaggerated) fears of supply disruptions.”

Hall’s March report highlights the fact that despite rising prices at U.S. gas pumps, demand in the U.S. was so low it has “become a net exporter of gasoline, unable to consume all that it generates.”

We also believe that Europe is not a ‘horrible’ example of production, as
Europe’s GDP is not much different than the U.S.’s over the past4 years.
We also would really like to see the U.S. government and State governments seriously adapt alternative transportation methods, such as bicycles and scooters much more widely than it is. Our roads and highways are in general, not bicycle/scooter friendly at all. Especially on the east and west metro coast areas.

Consumer Inflation (Food & Fuel)

By DataAnalytics

A brief report on the latest purported inflation figures.

As if under some giant slumber, the ‘public’ was given the standard
rhetorical tripe on monthly inflation figures today from the BLS.

Amazingly, CPI-U barley rose a half a percent, in fact it ‘printed’ at
0.4%! Now considering more than half the population are most likely
‘asleep at the wheel’ this report deserves a double-take, even from the
most inept, reality-TV, stupor-induced American.

If you buy groceries and drive a vehicle, you must realize
(at least we hope so) that it is costing you much, much more to
feed you and your family and fill up the old gas tank.

How much more? Well for gasoline, the national average per gallon
is now at $3.83, up from $3.54 a year ago. That’s an 8.1% Rise.
How about from last month? Prices from February are up a hefty 12%.
But yet, the BLS proclaims that the ‘official’ measure of inflation has
only risen 0.4%. How can that be? Simple, one word. Deception.

gas price chart

How about food prices? Well let’s take a closer look at the cost of food
commodities from January 2012 back to January 2011. Meat, Poultry,
Fish and eggs are up on a weighted basis of 7.21% from a year ago.
Dairy and related dairy (cheeses, yogurts, etc) have increased 9% since
last year, while Cereal and Bakery products are up 5.25% from January ’11.

cereal meat eggs

Can’t live without that morning cup of home brewed Coffee? (me neither)
Well, roasted coffee prices have soared a whopping 16.85% from January 2011.
The only ‘good’ news, is that Fruits and Vegetables have actually
dropped about a half a percent, 06% to be exact.

coffee & veg

So while the government and B-B-B- Benny and Fed tout virtually no
to little inflation, there are some of us, who understand that this simply
is NOT true. The government is playing a game, a dangerous game at that.
Manipulating, doctoring and fabricating numbers and figures in order to
‘show’ that Central Bank intervention is working. (which we know is a failure)

The BLS has truly become a Ministry of Propaganda for the government.
No longer an agency of credibility and non-partisan reporting. Engaged
in a campaign of utter and sheer deceit on jobs data and inflation.
Making a mockery of the Statistical arm of academics and public trust.

Ron Paul Grills Bernanke at the Financial Services Hearing

Financial Services Hearing Highlights February 29, 2012

Congressman Ron Paul ‘asks’ Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a series
of rapid questions about Fiat Currency, Silver and Inflation.

Quote of the highlight is;
…”that’s why they (the American people) Lose trust in government.”
Referring to the BS Inflation rate of 2%-3%. This portion of the clip is priceless.

 

Gasoline Prices Soaring Again

By DataAnalytics

Monthly Gasoline prices SPIKE one more time.

Now $3.65 per gallon (2/24). THAT’S THREE DOLLARS SIXTY FIVE CENTS.
Up $0.08 cents within the week. So far gas has RISEN from $3.23 to $3.65
per gallon just since January.

(2/20)
The average pump price of regular gasoline in the U.S. has
now risen to $3.57
from a month ago at $3.385 p/gal., and
up from $3.171 p/gal., just a year ago. A hefty 12.6% rise.

Price Chart
Here is what the main stream media, the Street and the
department of energy are reporting:

Both Brent and WTI are trading well above $100 per Barrel.

WTI   Brent

The burning question is why.

Here are the corporate owned media ‘talking-points’:

  • Geo-political tensions
  • Possibility of supply interruptions
  • Decreased crude supply from Nigeria and Libya.
  • Decreased capacity from Cushing/Midwestern refinery’s
  • Higher demand from India & China

Nigerian production

 

In turn, this is what investment firms and traders use as
a so-called “inflection point” or “trigger” to artificially drive
prices up, of both crude oil and retail gasoline.

However, here are a number of facts uncovered by DataAnalytics.

Most of the previously lost Libyan production is back to
750-800K/per day.

Nigerian production of approx., 2 mb/per day has been relatively
stable for the past 15 months.

The supposed Geo-political issues in the middle east have been
on-going for the past 40+ years. This is nothing new.

The prospect of supply being disrupted is slight.

U.S. Gasoline demand is at its lowest in 17 years.

E.U. Gasoline demand lowest in a decade

  • The level of supply is elevated
  • The level of demand has decreased

Gasoline supply has increased 9.7% from January.
Refinery utilization has declined from 85.6% to 84%
per day or only 0.4% which equates to -218K per day.
(this is basically a negligible amount)

Other than geo-political rhetoric and wild, unregulated
speculation, the mostly normal and broadly acceptable model
of demand and supply, based on consumption, appears to have
no place in the current price  ‘controls’ established by Wall Street,
OPEC and supposed government regulations.

The fact is that the current and wild speculation is unfounded
and is in the process of creating a gasoline bubble. Just last week,
traders bought 90 million barrels of futures contracts for themselves.

A major consequence of course is increased consumer inflation
and the further erosion of discretionary income and spending.

The most perilous potential result could be a Double-Dip Recession.
The bottom line is that the average consumer will suffer the
most, while only a very select will benefit and benefit enormously.

When supply is up and demand is down, but prices keep rising,
it does not take a PhD to figure out the causation. Which is
neither one of a geo-political, mechanical or physical supply issue.
In short, it is simply the underlying ambition of unreasonable profit,
by baseless speculation, at the great expense of the consuming public.

We are working on a more in-depth story regarding crude oil
and gasoline commodities. Stay tuned.

Preliminary February Unemployment Rate

By DataAnalytics

U3 rate jumps back up to 9%

Gallup’s latest report suggests the BLS will “likely report on the first
Friday of March that its seasonally adjusted unemployment
rate increased in February.”

Gallup Chart

Gallup’s mid-month unemployment rate analysis is a preliminary
estimate of the BLS government report. Data now suggests that the
Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely report on March 2nd that its
“Seasonally Adjusted” U3 unemployment rate will indeed actually
INCREASE 
in February.

Meanwhile, the U6 rate (underemployment/unemployment) has also
spiked up to 19%, from the purported S.A. 15.7%  rate. The take away
here is that the labor market is worsening as we have suggested.

The non-seasonally adjusted data can be a more effective gauge of
the labor markets overall health. That, and the “Mean Duration” of
unemployment, which is near 41 weeks, accompanied by the all
alarming statistic of 43% of those who are unemployed are in that
Long-Term Unemployment category.

Labor Force Participation Rate is the key to deciphering and analyzing
the realistic unemployment rates. From approximately 2000 to 2009,
the LFPR had been about 67% +/-. But in the past 2+ years the LFPR
has been falling and now stands at approximately 64%+/-.

The reality is that the true total underemployment/unemployment
rate could be as high as 36%. Though it is difficult to pin down exact
numbers without having access to payroll income tax data.

But it is safe to state, that the total unemployment rate is roughly
between 25% and 36%. That is One Quarter to One Third of ALL
available would-be workers out of full-time work or out of work all together.

What this latest batch of data suggests, proves, is that the false claims
and bell-ringing of an economic recovery are worthless. The “Hopium”
that is being passed around in the “progressive pipe” has burned a hole
in the brains of those who are buying-in to the massive propaganda
war being waged by the government and the corporate owned media.

The economy is tanking day by day. All of the meaningful economic
indicators are either flat or negative. We have gone over them time and
time again in the last year, but it doesn’t seem to sink in.

Real Retail Sales were 0.0% in December. Preliminary figures
for January were 0.4%,  which will be revised downward again.
Most big name retailers are in serious trouble.

Profit margins in 2011 were down for almost every major retailer.
Many are now in bankruptcy, due to the massive price slashing
efforts in order to gain the foot traffic in the last quarter of 2011.

Auto sales were misleading as well, as the bulk of orders were not
for customers, but rather dealership inventories.

Crude oil and gasoline are spiraling out of control and have seen
double-digit percentage increases over last year at this time. These
rising fuel commodities show no signs of slowing down or reducing
which is further jeopardizing the economy.

Food prices are up and slightly rising as well and are expected to
remain at elevated levels in 2012. Another cold harsh reality is that
Food & Fuel inflation is up approximately 30%+/- from a year ago.

Housing market remains depressed with median prices still falling,
due in part to the huge inventory of distressed properties. With more
foreclosures due to hit the market all throughout 2012, prices will
continue to slide. This will negatively affect existing homes and
mortgage holders who are already underwater.

Debt, both personal and corporate were up in 2011 and will not
abate anytime soon.

GDP for Q4 2011, was 2.8%. Now, strip out the stockpiled inventories
which accounted for 1.9%, then remove autos, 0.6% and ta-da!
Q4 GDP was a Whopping 0.3%! Zero point three of a percent.

There you have it, 5 major indicators of economic activity are flat to
negative and are nowhere near improving because of one simple word:
Jobs. The labor market is the crux of our economic engine, period.

It’s not the stock market or any other insignificant indicator the media
and shill economists tout. Without sufficient labor levels and wages, the
all important Purchasing Power is diminished or completely eliminated.
Which tends to halt almost all economic activity (except necessities)
in our +/-67 percent  “consumption-driven” economy.
(is the light bulb coming on yet?)

Gasoline Prices

By DataAnalytics

UPDATED Post:
February 14, 2012

The mean price per gallon for regular gasoline in the U.S. is now $3.51.
Up 12.5% from one year ago, when prices averaged $3.12 per gallon.
Just a month ago, regular was averaging $3.44 p/gal.
This continual rapid rise is cause for alarm and concern as unemployment
is increasing and the economy is falling deeper towards a double-dip recession.

Feb. 2, 2012
Here’s a quick update on U.S. Fuel Commodity Inflation, part of the
necessary and reoccurring household consuming expenditures.

Unless you have been inducted into the witness protection program or
hiding out in a remote secluded cabin…you know that gas prices at the
pump have been (recently) steadily rising since late November.

 

U.S. Gasoline Chart

 

In the week ending January 31st, the national average for regular
gasoline was $3.439 per gallon. Up from $3.101 p/g one year ago.
That’s a 10.89% increase and a 4.5% rise just in the month of January.

Gas Prices

 

The immediate question is; why? Well of course the most simplistic
and obvious answer would be supply and demand, right? Absolutely,
that would be the correct answer- except that demand for pump gasoline
has been dropping for about the past 3 months.

Demand for pump gasoline during most of 2011 had been approximately
370-million gallons per day, but over the last few months that rate has
fallen to about an average of 340-million gallons per day.

Meanwhile on the supply side, gasoline inventory has increased for the
third straight week, attaining the highest level since March of 2011.
And, with the stockpile of fuel, refinery utilization rate is down by 1.9%.

Typically, U.S. gasoline consumption has historically trended in-step with
employment and with Unemployment at unprecedented highs, the drop-off
in aggregate demand is really no surprise at all.

So the evidence reveals that demand has and continues to decrease, yet
prices at the pump keep rising. Given these two facts, we can surmise that
it is not the result of a Cost-Push trigger whatsoever.

There are many reasons for the jump in crude (both Brent and WTI)
which directly affect retail pump gasoline. DataAnalytics is working
on a story explaining those reasons, which we will publish in the coming months.

The bottom line here is, that the average driving/commuting consumer
is paying approximately 12% more for gasoline than this time last year.
Couple that sizable 15%-20% increase with inflated cost of staple foods
and the grim pressures of affordability to the average American household continue to mount.


The Iron Pump


Household Inflation & Commodity Prices

By DataAnalytics

So, how far is your dollar stretching these days? We know, not very far.
It seems that almost everything costs more today than it did last year at
this time. Well, in fact almost everything does cost more. But wait, the
BLS states that consumer inflation has increased only 3.4%. Really?

Well, you can forget the mostly impractical CPI-U Index published by
the government. What matters abundantly and has a significant
impact to the average consumer is Household Inflation.

Those household ‘commodities’ are the everyday items we all use and mostly
need with a few basic ‘wants’ in the mix as well. Such as; Food, Fuel, Apparel,
household Appliances and Electronics.

According to the “Basket of Goods” utilized in the governments CPI-U index,
inflation is approximately, +3.4% (NSA). The simple fact is that this ‘measure’ of
inflation is not relevant or indicative of real-world household/consumer price inflation.

The fact is that aggregate household-commodity inflation on nominal prices
from one year ago in October- (y-o-y comparative analysis ) for these items-
(Food, Fuel, Apparel, Appliances and Electronics) has risen +35.30%. (cumulative)
(For a breakdown of commodities and price-levels, see the graphs below)

What this really means is that the purchasing power of the average U.S. consumer
has greatly decreased, approximately 35% for these basic staples from 2010.

So what exactly has been the causation of the rapid acceleration in food, fuel,
clothing and electronics then? It”s certainly not Demand-Pull inflation. ‘Demand’
for most household commodities and gasoline has been less than last year and
personal consumption has dropped a whopping 24% from Q2 to Q3.

Could a portion of commodity inflation be tied to a Cost-Push? Perhaps,
but it would be a minor amount of the overall aggregate price rises.

Well on the food side, we know that the prices of cornmeal, sugar, rice and wheat
have been driven up by a variety of factors- first, is the slight drop off in crop
yields and second, is speculation as well as the effects of monetary supply
and wage stagnation.

inflation cereal rice pasta eggs

inflation cereal rice pasta meat eggs

Total Rise of Cereal, Rice, Pasta, Cornmeal, Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs: 20.82%

inflation milk fruits bread

Total Rise of Milk, Fruits, Vegetables, Bread: 24.39%
(Total Aggregate Rise of Staple Food Commodities: 22.60%)

Examining Apparel, Appliances and Electronics, specifically, home video
and audio, we see only a moderate increase in price levels from Oct. 2010.

tv clothes appls

Total Rise of Apparel, Appliances and Electronics: 5.54%

On the fuel side, it is down to OPEC and to some extent, futures trading. We know that
OPEC will no longer sell crude for less than $90-$95 per barrel for any length of time.
This ‘built-in’ price floor sets the stage for the loosely monitored, but undeniable
‘fixed-pricing’ basis on crude. Mix in speculative trading and the market is able to
some extent, manipulate the cost per barrel.

avg gas prices

Total Rise of Regular Gasoline Per Gallon Nationally: 7.15%

Given the fragile state of the U.S. economy and the unprecedented
unemployment/underemployment rate of 22%-23%, how much more
price inflation can the average household absorb?

An ideal economy retains price-stability, which at the moment we have
none of. So what does our inflation analysis reveal? Well, the obvious is that
most household commodities are costing over 35% more than they did in 2010.

Secondly, price-inflation seems to be somewhat fragmented and without argument,
some of these price rises are transitory, with a historic trend of being somewhat
predictable. But that has not been the case as of late.

Yes, most household food commodities have been shifting downward since
the beginning of 2011, with retail gasoline following suit, while the rise in rents are
averaging only about 5% nationally. On the other side of the coin, housing asset
prices have declined and continue to fall, with auto prices remaining fairly stable.

So as we close out 2011 the U.S. economy remains in a state of flux with most
tangible assets deflating, while commodities are still above 2010 price levels and
could easily rise again. The bigger question looming is what will this ‘push-pull’ yield
going into 2012? Much of it depends on the broader macro-picture, the all important
labor market, the presidential election and the Eurozone crisis will all play a role in the
macro economic picture.

The bottom line is that the variables involved, both domestically and abroad are
unknown in terms of predictability and performance. The U.S. as well as Europe
and parts of Asia could remain in this unstable economic environment for a couple
of more years or perhaps even longer. But here at home, the dollar can only be
stretched so far, before it eventually breaks.

 

For analysis purposes the following methods were implemented
*price averages reflect the retail mean.

*each commodity group was weighted.
*food commodities combined. (previous correction)
*apparel, appliances, electronics combined
Partial data derived from IndexMundi, IBD and consumer surveys