There’s a lot of business to be done before Memorial Day. March Madness, Easter, Passover, spring break, baseball’s opening day and even the NBA playoffs will tip off before Memorial Day. But already gasoline prices average more than $3.50 per gallon.
If you think you’ve seen this before, you have. Last year, just as spring began pump prices popped over $3.50 a gallon. The U.S. economy was beginning to show signs of life (remember the green shoots?). The unemployment rate had fallen to 9 percent. The stock market was climbing. Consumer confidence had jumped to its highest level in three years.
Gasoline would top out at almost $4 per gallon by Memorial Day last year. The tepid economic growth vanished. Stocks fell. Job gains stalled and consumer confidence plummeted.
Could we relive last year as gasoline prices climb in the week ahead? Crude oil prices are around $100 a barrel and threaten to move up in the new week. Iran’s tough talk over oil supplies and the improving U.S. economy, at least through January, have pushed oil close to its the highest price since last June.
Americans are burning less gasoline. Through the middle of this month, we consumed 7 percent less gasoline per week. That’s almost four million fewer gallons of gas each day.
Still, last week gasoline prices jumped a nickel. Oil rose three dollars per barrel. These trends threaten to continue in the week ahead.
Remember, it’s a global market for oil, from Miami to Mumbai, where they don’t celebrate Memorial Day.
Tom Hudson, anchor and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report,” can be followed on Twitter HudsonNBR.