National Price Check: +1.5 Cents and Another Record High

Today's prognostication from the groundhog: Spring is coming shortly. Thanks, little guy! (image: bejacksfriend.com)

Is this what a late-season price plateau is supposed to look like? No.

The average retail price for a gallon of propane went up a penny and a half last week, or half a percent, according to the afternoon’s numbers from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). That sets a new record high for residential propane prices, or more precisely, makes it seven new highs in as many weeks.

The East Coast was hit by the bigger gains, with a two-cent increase on average. The Midwest’s prices nudged up a haypenny.

For two weeks now, we’ve watched the charts with a microscope, looking for retail prices to flatten out. The gallon price has been on one long uphill slog since October — a common trend during heating season, and an unwelcome one for propane customers. Though judging by the last few years, prices hit an inflection point in late January, right around the time the supply side looks equipped to handle the rest of the season.

But this has been an inscrutable winter. After a mild fall, January turned nasty, sending the propane inventory down close to 15 million barrels for the month. The national reserves that had hovered just inside the average range, are now decidedly below average. And the brutal blizzard that just battered a third of the country won’t register on the supply till next week. Fickle weather like that buoys retail prices, and has us thinking the price break won’t be coming next week either.

That’s a rough way to end the day, so let us add: Today is Groundhog Day, and the forecasting rodent has called for an early spring.

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