Goldman Sachs: $5 Gas

Comin’ this summer… $5 gas (New York Post, May 29, 2011):

The forecast for the summer driving season: Hit the road early. Not to beat the traffic, but to beat the higher gas prices expected in mid-July.

Goldman Sachs’ crystal ball is proclaiming that oil will soon soar to $135 a barrel, and likely have service stations jacking up fuel prices to $5 a gallon in New York just like the summer of 2008 that preceded the recession.

Indeed, analysts say Goldman and the other oil trading giant that also has the might to move prices, JPMorgan Chase, have already placed their energy bets for the summer. JPMorgan predicts oil hitting $130 a barrel in the coming weeks.

Despite all the turmoil in the Middle East associated with the Arab Spring rioting, oil has fallen to the $100 level, closing out May with a stunning 12 percent drop.

But before the storm, the calm. There appears to be a backlash by some oil-pit analysts.

“Whoever would buy into these rising prices is just paying homage (to Wall Street firms) and helping the speculative positions,” said one oil trading source familiar with energy bets of Wall Street trading desks.

Gas prices, meanwhile, should benefit from the brief respite in oil prices.

“We should be seeing some big declines at the gas pumps after Memorial Day,” said energy analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover.

“Wholesale prices have been dropping, and that could cause some serious revisions downward at the pumps,” he said.

“The competition is fierce among the retailers, and whoever lowers his price first gets a big jump on everyone else and a lot of new business.”

Pump prices have dropped about 10 cents a gallon this week, while wholesale prices at the Nymex have steadily skidded 50 cents a gallon in the past two weeks.

Those declines came despite upward pressure on wholesale prices here in the past two days due to speculation that Mississippi River flooding could disrupt Gulf Coast refineries.

At the start of the Memorial Day holiday, the national average for gas was $3.80 a gallon.

Tom Kloza, an analyst at Oil Price Information Services, expects gas to fall to between $3.50 and $3.60 between now and the July 4 holiday.

Consumers could use the help.

Economists say households spent an average of $369 on gas during April, or about $168 more than the $201 they spent during April 2009, when gas was averaging around $2.76 a gallon.

Every 50-cent jump in the cost of gasoline takes $70 billion out of the US economy over the course of a year, economists say.

The tourism industry expects a drop in travel because consumers intend to stay closer to home and take more day trips. AAA predicts the typical family will spend $692 on its vacation, down 14 percent from $809 last year.

Meanwhile, demand for gasoline has fallen for eight straight weeks as drivers try to cut back with mixed results.

“Drivers try to do what they can, but they have to go almost all the places they go,” says energy researcher David Greene of the Department of Energy Web site “There’s no magic gizmo that will drastically change someone’s gasoline use.”

And for that reason, as well as global uncertainty, Goldman and JP analysts see a return to high oil and gas prices in the coming months. Without a significant decrease in American demand — or a sudden desire not to commute or drive to the shore — $5 a gallon is likely on the horizon.

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