Petrol prices hitting four-year highs

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Growing concerns about risks to global crude-oil supplies have caused international oil prices, and local retail petrol prices, to jump dramatically, peaking in May.

Average petrol prices in Australia’s five largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) remained broadly stable in the March quarter 2018, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) latest quarterly petrol report, released this week.

However, since April, petrol prices in some cities reached their highest levels in almost four years.

“Consumers have recently been paying around $1.60 for petrol,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said. “These prices are higher than any time since mid-2014 in some cities.

“Unfortunately, the international factors pushing up wholesale petrol prices mean that these higher prices are being passed on to Australian motorists at the petrol bowser.”

The ACCC reports the increase in retail petrol prices since the March quarter 2018 has been influenced by a number of factors, including the agreements in late-2016 by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some other oil-producing countries to cut crude oil production.

This has been compounded by recent concerns about risks to international crude oil supplies including: a potentially spreading conflict in the Middle East; renewed US sanctions against Iran; and falling crude oil output due to the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

The March quarter report also found that average gross retail margins in the five largest cities in the March quarter 2018 were 12.4 cents per litre (cpl), a decrease of 1.8 cpl from the previous quarter. However, they remain 4.4 cpl above their real long-term average since the ACCC began monitoring them in the September quarter 2002 (8 cpl).

Petrol prices in Brisbane remained the highest of the five largest cities in the March quarter 2018. The quarterly average retail petrol price in Brisbane was 138.2 cpl, which was 3.4 cpl higher than the average across the other four largest cities.