Diesel Average Tops $4 After Fifth Straight Gain

The U.S. diesel average pushed past the $4 level for the first time in almost a year, gaining 2.8 cents to $4.017 a gallon, the Department of Energy reported Feb. 24.

Trucking’s main fuel, which has risen 14.4 cents over the past five weeks, last topped $4 on March 25.

Despite the gain, diesel was 14.2 cents less than in the same week a year ago, DOE said after its Feb. 24 survey of filling stations.

The agency also reported the retail gasoline average price jumped 6.4 cents to $3.444 a gallon, the highest price in five months.

The fuel — which has posted three straight gains — spiked 13.5 cents in the two most recent weeks, the sharpest such rise since mid-July, when it rose almost 20 cents.

Last week’s price is 34 cents below a year ago, but the highest since it was $3.495 on Sept. 23.

The upturns came on the heels of oil prices that topped $102 a barrel, the highest level since October.

One analyst said the winter’s ongoing cold weather, coupled with seasonal refinery maintenance issues and higher oil prices, combined to boost pump prices higher.

“Nobody really thought we’d be up there at $4, but the weather has thrown everyone for a loop,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst with Price Futures Group in Chicago. “We’ve had refinery issues and supply issues. The good news is, someday it might warm up.”

In contrast to recent weeks, last week’s diesel upturns were led by gains in DOE’s West Coast and Rocky Mountain regions, where it rose more than 3 cents each to $4.035 and $3.95 per gallon, respectively.

The East Coast’s price rose 1.9 cents to $4.148 — remaining the highest regional average — and its New England and Central Atlantic sub-regions continued to have the highest overall prices at $4.386 and $4.358.

This story appears in the March 3 print edition of Transport Topics.