TOKYO: The average pump price of regular gasoline in Japan this week hit the highest level since November 2018, against a backdrop of rising crude oil prices, government data showed Wednesday.
The nationwide average price as of Monday rose 1.2 yen from a week earlier to 157.5 yen, up for the fifth consecutive week, according to the data released by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
With pump prices already above 160 yen in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, the nationwide average appears increasingly likely to top the 160-yen mark. The average last stood above the threshold in October 2018.
Tight oil supplies are unlikely to be resolved for the time being, as talks among oil-producing countries to increase production have stalled.
At a time when the momentum of economic recovery is patchy among regions in the country, higher gasoline prices are weighing on Japanese households, which are also facing hikes in flour and edible oil prices this month or later.
The latest data showed that pump prices climbed in 43 of the 47 prefectures, averaging 166.9 yen in the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki, the highest among all prefectures, followed by 166 yen in the nearby prefecture of Kagoshima.
Pump prices slightly fell in the four other prefectures–Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Wakayama and Okayama.
Pump prices are expected to continue to increase next week, after domestic oil wholesalers this week raised their prices to gas stations by around 0.5 yen.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, pump prices temporarily slumped below 130 yen in May 2020, following a crude oil market collapse. Prices have since been on an uptrend, backed by global economic recovery.
On Monday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and some other oil producers including Russia canceled a ministerial session scheduled for the day.
“Uncertainty over oil production is making it difficult to predict future gasoline prices,” an official of the Oil Information Center said.