Drivers may begin feeling some reprieve at the pump, as gasoline futures prices have begun slipping lower. Prices dropped nearly twenty cents per gallon this week, reaching the lowest price in over two months.
War rhetoric with Iran has eased recently, as have tensions in Syria, diminishing two threats to the supply of crude oil coming from the Middle East. Although the United States only procures 12% of its oil from the Middle East, supply disruptions can cause global prices to spike, pulling U.S. crude and related products higher.
North America has become increasingly energy independent over the last few years as demand has dropped and production, especially in North Dakota and the Canadian province of Alberta, has been rising. Despite the increase in production, much of the crude oil produced in the Great Plains and Canada is trapped in storage facilities in the Midwest, unable to reach refineries in the Gulf Coast due to inadequate infrastructure. Plans are being accelerated to reverse the flow of a pipeline that would bring cheap, Midwestern crude to refineries, possibly increasing the supply of cheaper gasoline in time for the summer driving season.
As of midday Friday, gasoline futures for delivery in May, which reflect the price without taxes or other fees, were trading for $3.15 per gallon, down almost thirty cents (-7.9%) since the recent high of nearly $3.43 earlier this month.
Cattle futures prices have stabilized, as market participants prepare for the summer grilling season. Although a myriad of factors influence cattle prices, including changes in beef supplies, supplies of other meat and poultry products, and even weather, a number of traders have decided to focus on American consumers' love of grilling out.
The early summer months see backyard barbeque enthusiasts dusting off their grills. In turn, cattle prices are known to respond positively, as demand for burgers and steaks rises. Traders have waded into the cattle market over the past two weeks, buying ahead of Memorial Day, which signals the beginning of the grilling season.
Buying cattle now may be seen by some as a bold move, as recent news headlines have been dominated by controversy over "pink slime" - a beef-based additive whose production process is considered unsavory by its detractors.
After having fallen approximately 10% in recent weeks, June cattle futures were trading at $1.156 per pound as of Friday morning, up 1.7 cents from their April 11 lows.