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Economic Forecasts

Gas Prices Start to Climb

Kiplinger's latest forecast on the direction of energy prices

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GDP 2.5% growth in '19, down from 2.9% in '18 More »
Jobs Unemployment rate will decline to 3.4% by end '19 More »
Interest rates 10-year T-notes at 3.0% by end ’19 More »
Inflation 2.2% in ’19, up from 1.9% in ’18 More »
Business spending Up 5% in ’19 as global growth slows More »
Energy Crude trading from $55 to $60 per barrel in June More »
Housing 5.35 million existing-home sales in ’19, down 0.4% More »
Retail sales Growing 4% in ’19 (excluding gas and autos) More »
Trade deficit Widening 7%-8% in ’19 More »

Oil prices keep inching higher. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate traded near $56 per barrel recently, its highest level in roughly three months. U.S. sanctions on Venezuela are limiting exports of that country’s heavy grades of crude, while OPEC is deliberately curbing production in order to push prices higher. Global oil demand also remains solid. Therefore, WTI has risen from a recent low of $42.50 per barrel in late December to today’s mid-50s range.

We expect prices to rise further once spring arrives and Americans start traveling more. In June, we look for WTI to trade at $55 to $60 per barrel.

Via E-mail: Energy Alerts from Kiplinger

Gasoline prices are also heading higher. At $2.34 per gallon, the national average price of regular unleaded is up almost seven cents per gallon from a week ago and a dime from a month ago. Increased driving this spring, plus refineries’ switchover to more-expensive summer gas formulations, should keep pushing up the price at the pump. Diesel, now average $2.94 per gallon, is also up a couple of pennies from last week and is likely to near $3 per gallon this spring.

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In contrast to oil and gasoline, natural gas prices are well off their recent highs. Benchmark gas futures contracts are trading at $2.67 per million British thermal units. Last autumn, they briefly surpassed $4 during a bout of unseasonably cool weather that seemed to be a sign of a cold winter ahead. But for most of the country, the winter didn’t turn out to be too frigid, except for the Midwest’s January cold snap. And now, with spring approaching, gas traders seem to be betting that heating demand is going to weaken soon. An unusually frosty March could cause another brief price spike, but otherwise, don’t look for gas futures to rally anytime soon.

Source: Department of Energy, Price Statistics