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Crude oil tugs on price at the pump

Retail gasoline prices kept somewhat elevated by last week's rally in crude oil prices.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Crude oil tugs on price at the pump
Consumer gasoline prices are expected to end period of volatility brought on by wild swings in crude oil prices and an end to a season of heavy refinery maintenance. File photo by Eduardo Sverdlin/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Midweek fluctuations in crude oil prices and lower processing at refineries are keeping retail gasoline prices from falling dramatically, analysts said.

Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.21 per gallon, a minor decline from the previous day, but about 0.8 percent higher than last week.

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Gasoline prices are tied largely to crude oil prices, as well as refinery and transit infrastructure issues. For crude oil prices, last week saw steep spikes and heavy declines amid global macroeconomic data and information showing an increase in Russian crude oil production.

Tuesday marks the fourth straight day of declines in the national average price for gasoline, although that follows six straight days of an increase. Avery Ash, a spokesman for AAA, said in a November report on retail gasoline prices that mid-month increases are possible because refinery maintenance has been heavier than normal.

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"Gas prices likely will increase during the first half of November, but that trend might not last long," he said.

Prices in the Midwest were elevated in August and September because of issues at regional refineries, including at BP's refinery in Whiting, Ind., one of the nation's largest. AAA said the Midwest region has experienced "heavy" refinery maintenance because of higher production during the summer's peak driving season.

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Any spikes in gasoline prices will be temporary, however, as most refineries are expected to wrap up heavy maintenance by the end of the month. A survey of federal data from analysts at the consumer price monitor GasBuddy.com finds refiners are starting to process more crude oil as maintenance issues are addressed.

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"GasBuddy anticipates that the bulk of maintenance will be completed by Thanksgiving, and should lead to an overall cooler climate at the pump for the holiday season," it said in an emailed report.

There are six states with an average price below the $2 mark. South Carolina has the lowest state average in the nation with $1.95 per gallon.

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