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Soaring Gasoline Prices Raise U.S. Retail Sales

More spending on gasoline amid surging prices lifted U.S. retail sales in March 2022, with spending at gasoline stations up by nearly 9 percent from February and up by a massive 37 percent from March 2021, new U.S. data showed on Thursday.

Advance monthly sales estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that Americans spent a total of $665.7 billion on retailer and food services sales in March, up by 0.5 percent from February. Sales in March were up by 6.9 percent compared to March 2021. Total sales from January 2022 through March 2022 were up 12.9 percent from the same period a year ago, the Census Bureau said.

Higher gasoline and food prices accounted for most of the increase in retail sales in recent months.

Spending at gasoline stations was up by 37.0 percent from March 2021 and 8.9 percent from February 2022, while food services and drinking places were up 19.4 percent from last year and 1 percent over February 2022.

Excluding receipts at gasoline stations, U.S. retail sales actually fell by 0.3 percent in March compared to February.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. hit a fresh multi-year high in March at over $4.30 per gallon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine roiled the global oil market and led to wild swings and prices surging above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

As of April 14, the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is

$4.074, per AAA data. The national average has been dropping in recent days since the U.S. announced the largest release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) of 180 million barrels over six months.

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Apart from the massive strategic petroleum release—which analysts say will not help solve the structural deficit in the oil market with insufficient investments in recent years—the Biden Administration also announced that the Environmental Protection Agency would issue an emergency waiver to allow E15 gasoline – a higher-ethanol containing gasoline typically banned in the summer – to be sold during this summer “in order to increase fuel supply.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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