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TrendLINES GasPump: USA New Car Sales poised to Collapse if $3.32/gallon Breached

May 15, 2011 7:44 PM ET
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USA Gasoline Price Components & Crack Spread

USA Gasoline Price/gallon Components:

Trendlines Research

Jan 1 2011 2012Q4 2016/Jan
Demand Destruction Barrier $4.22 $4.62 $5.28
New Car Sales Collapse Threshold $3.32 $3.61 $4.13
Retail Pump Price $3.05 $3.40 target  
Wholesale $2.41    
Taxes $ .49    
Profit $ .15    
Contract Crude $2.04    
Gross Margin (Retail less Crude) $1.01    
Margin (Retail less Wholesale) $ .64    
Crack Spread $ .38 ($15.95/barrel)    

 May 15th delayed FreeVenue public release of Jan 11th guidance @ our MemberVenue ~ During 2005 & 2006, gasoline touched $3/gallon and fell back. It didn't in 2007Q4 and the breach of $3.19/gallon ($86/barrel crude) helped push the American economy into a Technical Recession. It is little known that this price event contributed to the collapse of USA New Car Sales (see FRB chart below) and light vehicle/parts imports from Canada.

It should be of grave concern that the same Pump-Price/GDP ratio underlying that episode is being re-approached. The failure of Congress & successive Administrations to address America's structural deficits & mounting national debt is troubling to the global investment community (especially bond vigilantes) and is responsible for the USDollar's secular decline since January 2002.

Our Barrel Meter illustrates this situation's adverse effect on oil price after April 2004. As shown in the Barrel Meter component table, USD debasement was the largest forcing ($28) among component fundamentals during the $94/barrel price spike (2005-2008). As the Dollar falls, crude oil pricing rises ... and this will continue 'til the Structural Deficits are dealt with.

As a Pump-Price/GDP ratio, the New Car Sales Collapse Threshold rises along with GDP over time and gasoline will again breach the same danger zone @ $3.32/gallon ($91/barrel USA contract crude). At this time it appears Pump Price will straddle but not breach the New Car Sales Collapse Threshold over the next eight quarters.

Should caveat events prevail, there may be solace in our thesis that any price run would be arrested by a second Pump-Price/GDP ratio @ $4.22/gal ($135/barrel contract crude). This Demand Destruction Barrier is the same threshold that reversed the July 2008 price run @ $4.11 per gallon ($131/barrel). It demarks the point where substitution and conservation measures by consumers and commerce attain critical mass.

Any decimation of New Car & Light Truck sales would be a major factor in relapsing the USA & Canadian economies into new Recessions. It is little known that since 2004 more light vehicles have been manufactured /assembled in Ontario than Michigan. This present danger is tracked at the Trendlines Recession Indicator.

Last week's Retail Price of $3.05/gallon is comprised of $2.41 Wholesale refinery product & a $ .64 Margin. In turn, Margin is made up of $ .49 Taxes & $ .15 Profit. One would think the retailers are getting very rich, eh. Well, analysis reveals Margin is only up from $ .54 in January Y2k. Taxes & Profit are up from 42 & 13 cents at that time. In other words, nominal Profit today is virtually unchanged.

The post-Y2k Crack Spread (diff betw Wholesale & Contract Crude) for Refiners can be seen ranging from $1.06 & $ .18 per gallon ($44 & $8/barrel) and is currently $ .38/gallon ($14.92/barrel). When this figure drops below $ .48/gallon ($20/barrel), Refiners prefer to produce diesel and import less expensive gasoline. This current lack of profitably is behind the recent shuttering and sell-off of facilities.

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