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Fuel prices tumble as result of coronavirus crisis

Pump prices of petrol and diesel have seen some of their biggest monthly reductions since the start of 2000 as a result of growing fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Oil prices at the end of February had slumped $10 from a mid-month high

RAC Fuel Watch data shows unleaded prices in February fell by 3p (2.93p) a litre to 124.02p – its 19th-ever biggest drop in a month – and diesel by 4.24p to 127.04p, the 11th greatest monthly fall seen since the RAC began monitoring fuel prices and the biggest fall since the start of 2000.

At the supermarket forecourts, the average price charged for unleaded was 119.19p and 121.62p for diesel – around 5p less than the UK average prices – with prices down to 116.78p for unleaded and 118.8p for diesel at Asda.

The pump price reductions have been driven by a $10 slump in the price of a barrel of oil; the result of the spread of the coronavirus which has prompted fears of slower global demand. This saw the price of a barrel of oil tumble from a high of $60.28 on 20 February to $50.41 by the close of the month. Prices over the course of the whole month fell $3, with a barrel having started February at $53.48.

The RAC said it was good that drivers were benefiting from lower forecourt prices but called for further reductions.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “In reality the wholesale price is such that the big four supermarkets, which dominate UK fuel retailing, should cut their prices again. At the moment both fuels are 6p a litre too expensive which means for petrol we should really be seeing a UK average of 118p. Unfortunately, we don’t think diesel will come down to the 2017 price of 119p a litre due to wholesale prices only dropping to 92p a litre briefly as a result of oil suffering its biggest weekly decline in more than four years.”

Williams also warned that OPEC and its allies may decide to restrict production when they stage an extraordinary meeting in Vienna on Friday (6 March), very likely putting an end to falling forecourt fuel prices.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.