Autos, Housing, Energy: What to Expect Next Quarter
Here's what to watch for in the energy markets in the quarter ahead. Since North America is drowning in oil, you'd expect more unconventional production from shale reserves and increased fuel-efficiency in cars—thanks to more drivers trading in their gas guzzlers for fuel-sipping vehicles—to curb gains in oil and gasoline prices this spring.
But the federal government's renewable fuels mandate could push gas prices into overdrive. Prices for the credits that refiners use to meet renewable fuels standard, known as Renewable Identification Numbers or "RINs" have skyrocketed recently. Traders called it "RIN-sanity'' as these prices soared to more than $1 a gallon by mid-March, from just a few cents a gallon late last year.
Many refiners now will be paying billions of dollars more than they bargained for to meet the renewable fuels mandate.
Some of them will likely pass at least part of the extra cost on to consumers, which traders say could help to fuel the traditional March to May rally in prices at the pump.
-By CNBC's Sharon Epperson; Follow her on Twitter @sharon_epperson