U.S. retail gas prices finally moving lower

Recent market trends are working in consumer's favor, at least at the gas station.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Feb. 13, 2018 at 6:22 AM
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Feb. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. retail gasoline prices moved lower for the first time this year, following broader markets and sector metrics, but relief might not last, analysis found.

Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price of $2.57 per gallon for Tuesday, only 3 cents lower than last week, but its a rare move so far this year for prices at the pump to inch lower.

Jeanette Casselano, a spokeswoman for AAA, said more than three quarters of the country were paying less for gasoline than they were last week.

"Unfortunately, it's too early to know if this one-week decline is the start of a cheaper gas price trend," she said in a statement.

Crude oil prices followed broader stock indices lower last week, erasing all of the gains for the year. The price for Brent crude oil was around $63 per barrel early Tuesday, about $3 per barrel lower than where it started the year and well below the 2018 peak at just above $70 per barrel in January. Crude oil price trends are usually reflected at the gas pump.

Consumer demand for fuels, however, remains robust, hitting seasonal peaks ahead of schedule. Gasoline demand, at around 9 million barrels per day, is almost 2 percent higher than this time last year.

By market, the West Coast remains the most expensive in the country, with Washington state joining California with prices above the $3 per gallon mark. Four of the seven states in the country that saw an increase in gasoline prices were in this market, even though gasoline inventories are unseasonably high.

The Great Lakes market, meanwhile, is the most volatile. Michigan has been one of the most expensive states in the country, but last week was among those with the steepest declines at 11 cents per gallon. Gasoline inventories in this market have increased every week so far this year.

Separate retail market analysis from GasBuddy said gas prices for consumers could continue their trend lower for several weeks.

"Gasoline prices are likely to decline in the week ahead as stations pass along last week's lower wholesale prices, but with seasonal maintenance work and economic anxiety, prices may rebound soon after," its report read.

The federal government estimates an average price at the pump for the year at $2.62 per gallon, a 20 cent per gallon increase from last year.

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