Record weekly lift in national petrol prices: CommSec's Craig James

Record weekly lift in national petrol prices: CommSec's Craig James
Record weekly lift in national petrol prices: CommSec's Craig James


Motorists in Sydney and Brisbane probably reckon that they have never seen a bigger weekly change in the petrol price. And they would be right. Nationally, petrol prices jumped by a record 10.9 cents a litre last week. But the price jump was between 17-26 cents a litre in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The big changes in pump prices would be unsettling for motorists.

Brisbane, Gold Coast and Ipswich were amongst the dearest paces in Australia to buy unleaded fuel in the past week, near $1.65 a litre. Geelong was the cheapest at 137.8 cents a litre.

Petrol prices have now peaked on east coast capital cities – Sydney and Melbourne prices peaked over the weekend and in Brisbane the cycle peaked last Wednesday. Adelaide prices have fallen for nine days. It takes around 10-15 days for petrol prices to fall from the peak to the trough of the discounting cycle. So the message for most east coast capital city motorists is to top up, not fill up. However, Adelaide motorists need to be more vigilant.

Filling up the car with petrol can cost the average motorist $80-90 – the single biggest weekly purchase for most households. While petrol prices are not historically high, they are not historically low either. But peak cycle prices in capital cities near $1.74 a litre may be adding to cautious consumer spending behaviour. Unfortunately there are few signs of relief at the pump. While the wholesale (terminal gate) price has eased 1.2 cents from recent 3-month highs, it is still up by 2.5 cents on a month ago.

Overall, global prices are holding at higher levels. Last week Singapore gasoline prices lifted in Aussie dollar terms to a 6-week high of 70.88 cents a litre. On Friday Brent crude fell by US58 cents or 0.9 per cent to US$63.39 a barrel. And the US Nymex price fell by US81 cents or 1.4 per cent to US$57.77 a barrel. Over the week Brent and Nymex rose by 0.1 per cent. Oil producers are being successful in supporting prices at higher levels by restricting production.

What do the figures show?

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average price of unleaded petrol rose by a record 10.9 cents in the past week to 153.0 cents a litre. The metropolitan price rose by 15.1 cents to 155.6 cents a litre but the regional price rose by just 2.3 cents to 147.7 cents a litre.

Average unleaded petrol prices across states and territories over the past week were: Sydney (up 20.3 cents to 154.4c/l), Melbourne (up 17.3 cents to 156.2 c/l), Brisbane (up 26.3 cents to 165.6 c/l), Adelaide (down 4.7 cents to 152.1 c/l), Perth (up 2.0 cents to 146.4 c/l), Darwin (down 0.2 cents to 143.1 c/l), Canberra (up 0.2 cents to 147.8 c/l) and Hobart (up 0.1 cent to 156.2 c/l).

The smoothed gross retail margin (2-month rolling average) for unleaded petrol rose from 13.26 cents a litre to 13.97 cents a litre (24-month average: 13.1 cents a litre).

The national average diesel petrol price fell by 0.2 cents to 149.2 cents a litre over the week. The metropolitan price fell by 0.1 cents to 147.9 cents a litre and the regional price fell by 0.2 cents to 150.3 cents a litre.

Today, the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at 136.0 cents a litre, down by 1.2 cents over the week. The terminal gate diesel price stands at 134.8 cents a litre, up by 0.4 cents over the past week.

MotorMouth records the following average retail prices for unleaded fuel in capital cities today: Sydney 163.4c; Melbourne 165.3c; Brisbane 162.2c; Adelaide 140.9c; Perth 140.2c; Canberra 147.7c; Darwin 143.2c; Hobart 156.4c.

The key Singapore gasoline price was unchanged last week at US$76. 50 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms, the Singapore gasoline price rose by 12 cents or 0.1 per cent to $112.70 a barrel or a 6-week high of 70.88 cents a litre.

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

Tax refunds are up around 30 per cent on a year ago. And interest rates are low. So there is plenty of stimulus on offer. Unfortunately consumer sentiment has weakened in recent months. Rate cuts have spooked many consumers and petrol signboards have been showing $1.74 a litre – two factors serving to induce consumer caution.

It’s not just high petrol prices that are unsettling consumers. It’s the fact that prices can vary so much in eastern and southern capital cities.

Many consumers will be hoping for plenty of deals on offer at upcoming ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales.

CRAIG JAMES is the Chief Economist at CommSec

Craig James

Craig James

Craig James is the Chief Economist at CommSec, interpreting ‘big picture’ economic and financial trends.

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