WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Relief in the form of stagnant crude oil prices and a good outlook for the nation's refineries means U.S. gas prices edged a bit lower, a retail analysis found.
An analysis of retail gas prices across the country from GasBuddy found prices dropped 3.2 percent on average for a gallon of regular unleaded to about $2.40. After steady gains for most of the latter half of last year, nearly three quarters of all U.S. states saw prices drop at the pump from last week.
By region, the West Coast remains the most expensive in the country, with at least two cities in California flirting with $3 per gallon for regular unleaded. Great Lakes states maintained their hold as the most volatile market, with Indiana leading the pack with a 13.9 cent drop in gas prices from last year "thanks to some relief from refinery issues in the last few weeks," GasBuddy's weekly market report found.
Crude oil prices started the first full trading day of 2017 at an 18-month high, though emerging doubts about whether the world's largest producers at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold to an output deal put pressure oil the market since then.
The price for Brent crude oil moved up nearly 2 percent before markets opened in New York, but it's still about 3 percent lower than the intraday peak for the year.
GasBuddy said crude oil prices are somewhat constrained in the low- to mid-$50 range as North American gains in oil and gas exploration counter planned production cuts from OPEC. Meanwhile, gasoline inventories remain high as refiners stock up ahead of the planned seasonal maintenance period that preludes a late spring shift to a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to make because of the additional environmental safeguards needed during warmer months.
Looking ahead, GasBuddy said to expect some continued relief at the pump, but some cyclical fluctuations are expected in some of the more volatile markets in the country.
"By next week a majority of states are likely to see gas prices trending lower," the weekly report stated.