Why Australian petrol prices are high, and set to keep climbing

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Australian motorists, we have some bad news for you. According to research conducted by Commsec, the average unleaded petrol price across the country rose to 119.1 cents per litre last week, the highest level seen in four months.

Using data provided by the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP), Commsec notes that prices in metropolitan areas rose by 0.3 cents to 118.5 cents per litre, outpaced by a 1.3 cent increase in regional areas to 120.3 cents per litre.

By city, Sydney recorded the highest average price for unleaded petrol at 124.8 cents per litre, up 4.8 cents on the levels of a week earlier. By comparison, the average price in Darwin was the lowest across the country at 115.1 cents per litre.

And it looks like prices will continue to push higher.

“The average wholesale petrol price is now near 113 cents a litre. A typical gross retail margin is 8-10 cents a litre. So motorists will need to get used to pump prices around 122 cents a litre,” said Commsec’s chief economist, Craig James, on Monday.

Although the average national price is still some 18 cents below the levels of a year earlier, James’ suggests that “the lift in petrol prices has potential to crimp some discretionary spending and make consumers a little less confident about their finances”.

The chart below, supplied by Commsec, looks at the total monthly spend on petrol per Australian household based on consumption levels of 30 litres a week.

Clearly the recent increase in prices is making motoring more costly, creating some inflationary pressures and detracting from household disposable incomes.

The jump is a combination of a falling Australian dollar and higher Tapis crude prices in Singapore.

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