Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Motorists in the United States are enjoying a period of relative calm at the gas pump, but sentiment is mixed over what happens ahead of the next major holiday.
Motor club AAA reported a national average retail price for regular unleaded gasoline at $2.86 per gallon on Tuesday, relatively unchanged for two weeks in a row. That's more or less in line with federal estimates through September.
In its weekly market report, AAA said there were signs that gasoline demand was relatively matching national supplies, though there were indications demand is on the decline as inventories built up.
"With a flat national average, U.S. gasoline supply and demand suggests they are balancing," AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano said in a statement. "But that's not to say that we could not see spikes in demand closer to Labor Day as motorists squeeze in those final road trips."
Federal data show the average price for a gallon of gasoline climbed more than 10 percent last year between the first full week of August and the first full week of September. Crude oil prices over the same period were relatively flat.
Barring an unexpected issues, Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said in a separate statement the moderate trend so far could continue.
"Oil inventories have continued to decline, but gasoline inventories remain healthy, and with summer drawing to a close and gasoline demand set to step down, we may see additional relief coming barring any disruptions to the flow of oil or gasoline such as a major hurricane," he said.
By region, the West Coast is the most expensive market in the country, with California setting the high-water mark for the Lower 48 at $3.61 per gallon. The market is flush with gasoline, with inventory levels about 4 million barrels higher than at this point last year. That should keep things stable for the West Coast in the week ahead.
The Great Lakes region remains the most volatile, with Michigan posting the biggest spike at 7 cents per gallon and its neighbor Ohio posting the largest decline with 10 cents per gallon from last week. Even still, most states in the region are paying less at the pump than they were last month. More relief may be in sight as gasoline inventories swelled for the first time since June.
The federal government expects an average price of gas for the year of $2.76 per gallon and the same for 2019.