California's Gas Prices Could Spread Across U.S. Like a Wildfire
American households are now spending an estimated $5,000 a year on gasoline, up from $2,800 just a year ago.
JPMorgan analysts are now sounding the alarm that California’s state average of $6 per gallon gas could quickly spread across the country.
“There is a real risk the price could reach $6+ a gallon by August,” Natasha Kaneva, head of global oil and commodities research at JPMorgan, told CNN Business. The bank also wrote in a report that “with expectations of strong driving demand … US retail price could surge another 37 percent by August.”
The national average on Wednesday was $4.57 per gallon, according to AAA data. Just a year ago, the price of gasoline was sitting at $3.04 per gallon. In California, the state’s average of $6.05 a gallon was up sharply from $4.13 one year ago.
Other industry experts, though, are skeptical of JPMorgan’s aggressive forecast. “It's hard to get to $6,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, told CNN. “Before we get there, we would have significant demand destruction, not only here, but around the world.”
Similar sentiments were shared by Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “I personally think we'd see a recession before we'd see a national average of $6,” he told the news outlet.
Per Fox Business, Lipow did note that gas prices will likely continue to head higher due to robust demand. “The demand for those fuels will … increase as drivers take to the road in the United States consuming more gasoline, drivers in Europe use more diesel, and airlines burn more jet fuel transporting vacationers around the world,” he said.
AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross contended in a statement that “the high cost of oil, the key ingredient in gasoline, is driving these high pump prices for consumers. Even the annual seasonal demand dip for gasoline during the lull between spring break and Memorial Day, which would normally help lower prices, is having no effect this year.”
Meanwhile, per CNBC, American households are now spending an estimated $5,000 a year on gasoline, up from $2,800 just a year ago, according to Yardeni Research. “No wonder that the Consumer Sentiment Index is so depressed,” Yardeni said in a note. “The wonder is that retail sales have been so surprisingly strong during April and May.”
On Tuesday, retail sales data for April were shown to be surprisingly strong. On a year-over-year basis, they climbed 8.2 percent for the month. Yardeni added that even in such difficult economic conditions, it is hard to bet against the U.S. consumer. “When we are happy, we spend money. When we are depressed, we spend even more money!”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.