27 Jan
The data behind the market trends across the fuel market suggest there are more than just economic factors dictating prices.

Do petrol prices follow seasonal trends?

Petrol prices tend to vary from month to month, or even week to week in most cases. Naturally, there's a whole host of factors behind any changes. The margins that the fuel companies want and need to make may have altered, exterior costs of oil can rise, and even the wider currency market can have somewhat of an impact.

Fortunately, for the last few months in New Zealand at least, petrol and diesel prices have been broadly falling. In fact, the most recent figures collated by AA PetrolWatch suggested that the average costs at the pumps hit a six month low in October.

Essentially, both individuals and business users alike could expect to save a further two cents per litre, bringing the costs down to around 195.9 for 91 Octane. Naturally, any savings would be compounded for those who leverage a fuel card, but even casual motorists may have felt the changes.

The time of year can dictate fuel prices to a certain extent.

A strong Kiwi dollar

So, what's the explanation for the decreases, and are there any overarching factors to consider?

Well, one of the main reasons that prices have fallen is due to the fact that the New Zealand dollar experienced a period of positivity against its US equivalent across October. 

''Overall, [the strong New Zealand dollar] meant the imported cost of petrol fell nearly nine cents in October, while the cost of diesel fell a total of eight cents, since the last price increase in early September,'' explained AA PetrolWatch's Mark Stockdale, as quoted by the Otago Daily Times.

The seasonal changes

Alongside the economic conditions, there is another factor that could prove to be behind the alterations in price: The season. Research collated by The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS) in the US explained that prices in North America tend to go up in the spring – which is the autumn in New Zealand.

Consequently, here and now in this country, the fuel market could be experiencing a lull due to more wide-ranging factors across the oil market.

Specifically, NACS explained that the vast majority of oil refineries carry out the most maintenance during the first quarter of the year. This is due to the fact that demand for petrol and diesel at large is typically in a trough just after the Christmas season, giving the oil companies time and space to better their operations.

Seasonal market conditions mean that fuel prices could begin to rise when Autumn comes around.Seasonal market conditions mean that fuel prices could begin to rise when autumn comes around.

Typically, demand starts to ramp up again across February. Applying that to the market here in New Zealand involves looking at the cost of fuel as a wider trend. Specifically, as the new year looms, prices may plateau before creeping up marginally after the calendar ticks into 2016.

Today, the country is currently in the centre of one of the cycles dictated by the oil companies, which goes some way to explain why prices have continued to fall over the last few weeks and months.

Assessing the trends

Ultimately, assessing the trends when it comes to the prices of petrol and diesel may not be a huge priority for those that simply have to fill up regularly – and will pay whatever the price happens to be at the time.

However, for businesses – and fleet managers in particular – there are a raft of advantages to assessing the market at large. If the company is filling up a number of vehicles, it could well be best practice to stay on top of pricing fluctuations, and get to the service station at the most opportune time where possible.