LONDON (Reuters) – Global petrol prices rose in November, defying a seasonal fall at the end of summer when driving demand wanes, as crude prices climb towards $100, a Reuters survey shows.
Nor will it get better for drivers as the most recent hikes in crude have yet to be passed on to retail gasoline prices, and U.S. and European fuel supply levels have been running low, traders said.
The costliest petrol is in Norway, Europe’s top oil producer, while Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, was near the bottom in the 20-nation survey.
In the world’s top consumer the United States, the average retail gasoline price was $3.10 (1.50 pounds) a U.S. gallon last week, the government said earlier this week.
The price was 86 cents higher than mid-November in 2006.
Peter Beutel, president of U.S.-based consultancy Cameron Hanover, attributed the price increase to the crude rally, rather than actual gasoline demand, which has eased after the end of the summer holiday season.
“We sometimes forget that the price mechanism, the sinew of capitalism, does not exist to make speculators rich, but exists to allocate supply to demand,” he said.
“But that’s what we have.”
International benchmark U.S. crude has been above $90 most of the time since late October and it rose a new all-time high of $99.29 a barrel on Wednesday.
The weakness of the dollar and speculation over central bank rates due to the global credit crunch have also caused inflows of investors’ money into the oil market.
Heating fuel supply concerns at the start of the Northern Hemisphere winter have also contributed to the hikes.
Asia’s largest energy consumer, China, controls its domestic fuel prices but raised gasoline prices by 10 percent late in October for the first time in 17 months.
The average gasoline price in China was 60 cents per litre, according to the government. But prices can vary by over 20 percent depending on the region.
Britain came fifth in the European rankings.
In Britain, the average petrol price rose above 1 pound a litre for the first time in mid-November.
In dollar terms, Norway’s pump price, $2.29 per litre, is the world’s highest. It was 12.40 Norwegian Crown (1.11 pounds) in mid-November, compared with 12.10 a month ago.
Citizens in OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia pay just 12 cents a litre. The average prices in Iran and Venezuela, OPEC’s second and fifth largest producers, were 11 cents and 3 cents a litre, respectively. Sharply lower prices in the survey reflect government subsidies.
Most other European countries saw pump prices unchanged or slightly higher than mid-September.
Drivers in the Netherlands paid an average of 1.52 euros (1.09 pounds) per litre, the most expensive gasoline price in the European Union.