The events that occurred in the stock market on April 10 caused me to create an updated fuel sales chart from retail convenience stores in our area. I suspect it is representative of convenience stores across the United States.
To read the chart: the vertical axis is dollars (orange line), and gallons (blue line) for 40 convenience stores.
The numbers across the bottom of the graph represent the day of the year: ‘1’ is January 1, ’33’ is February 2, ‘110’ is March 20, etc.
The dottend lines that run through the solid lines (from left to right) are trendlines. Gallons and dollar sales are trending down.
The days from 52-73 (February 21 to March 13) occurred at a time when consumers began to hoard particular grocery items, and the first “shelter in place” orders were suggested. Fuel sales started on an upward swing due to the panic AND after that an over supply of fuel caused suppliers to lower wholesale prices and retailers followed suit. About halfway through that period, retailers took advantage of the emergency and raised their street prices to accumulate more profits, causing wholesalers to lower prices even further as storage tanks were reaching capacity.
Note: The normal shelf life of ethanol blended gasoline is 28-90 days depending on the stabilizers added by the refinery. After that, the fuel is virtually useless and cannot be used in automobile engines. Once phase separation has occurred, it cannot be reversed.
Under normal times, the effect of lowering wholesale prices spurs retailers to lower prices and consumers take advantage of low retail prices by driving more and filling their tanks more often. However, these are not normal times, and the oil futures collapse was predictable.