BUSINESS

Too good to last: gasoline prices are creeping back up across Canada

02/03/2015 02:50 EST | Updated 04/05/2015 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - It had to end some time.

Gasoline prices have been creeping up across Canada and analysts say more increases are likely. But it's still a bargain compared with last year.

According to price-tracking website Gasbuddy.com, the national average for a litre of regular was about 93 cents, an increase of 3.6 cents over the past week.

And Gasbuddy senior petroleum analyst Dan McTeague said an increase of at least two to three cents is coming overnight across the country.

"It looks like the double whammy of both the decrease in value of the Canadian dollar and the increase in global commodity prices has led to a rather unfortunate scenario for consumers who have been enjoying record low prices," he said.

But to put it in perspective, a litre of regular gasoline averaged $1.24 a year ago in Canada.

In Calgary, gas prices have risen 7.5 cents over the past week. In Toronto, they're up 4.4 cents and Vancouver has seen a 6.7 cent increase.

Crude prices have been rallying over the last few days, with the U.S. benchmark settling at US$53.05 a barrel on Tuesday. But that's still about half of where they were in June.

Although oil is used to make gasoline, it's not the only factor that affects the cost to fill your tank. In any given market, refinery outages and competition can also move the price.

McTeague said it's not as simple as looking at supply and demand.

"I've long given up on fundamentals driving prices, because they don't. It has a lot to do with financial considerations and speculative bets."

Roger McKnight, senior petroleum adviser at En-Pro International, said he's keeping an eye on how many rigs are busy drilling for oil in the United States. One of the reasons for the latest crude rout had been burgeoning supplies from shale formations in places like Texas and North Dakota.

"I don't watch crude anymore. I watch the rig count and rig counts in the U.S.," he said.

The latest weekly data put out by U.S. oilfield services firm Baker Hughes said the U.S. rig count dropped by 94 last week.

"Speculators are guessing that will slow down the increase in crude inventories and therefore the price of crude goes up and so has gasoline."

McKnight said gasoline prices tend to move more quickly on the way up than down as oil companies look to maintain their profit margins.

"I call that 'up like a rocket, down like a feather.'"

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