BOSTON (Mar. 27) – For a third consecutive week, gasoline prices nationally have fallen, according to price-tracker GasBuddy.com. The national average shed 1.3 cents over the last week, falling to $2.28 a gallon Monday morning.
“Remarkably, for a third straight week, average gasoline prices have declined. In fact, for the first time since at least 2008 average gasoline prices today stand cheaper today than they started the year,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.
According to GasBuddy, the feat has been accomplished for several reasons. First, weak gasoline demand which has kept inventories of winter gasoline far more than adequate. Second, there have been few large scale unexpected refinery outages, and third, crude oil inventories and rising U.S. production have kept oil prices under pressure over the last month.
All three of these factors are actively at play and will continue to keep pressure on prices from spiking. More alarming, however, is that while gasoline prices have drifted lower, the gas price spread between stations has been rising, and stands 5% higher nationally versus last year. So while motorists may be feeling less pressure with stable gas prices, that false sense of security may be getting in the way of finding a gas station selling at a far lower price.
Meanwhile, the number of rigs across the United States increased again last week, rising by 20 (3 percent) to a total of 809, which stands 74 percent higher than the 464 rigs a year ago, according to Baker Hughes. As a result, crude oil prices have struggled lately and were seen down 74 cents per barrel to $47.22 per barrel in early trading Monday.
Versus last week, gasoline prices fell in all but 10 states: Florida, Texas, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Virginia, and Arizona were states seeing increases, while decliners were led by Michigan (down 8 cents), Ohio (down 7 cents), Indiana (down 6 cents) Missouri (down 4 cents) and Wyoming (down 4 cents). Gas prices in the Great Lakes led the nation lower as the region sees large discounting to purge remaining winter gasoline before making the final transition to summer gasoline. Nearly 14,000 gas stations were selling gasoline at or under $2 per gallon this morning, down slightly from last week’s 14,715. The most common gas price across the country stayed unchanged at $2.19 per gallon.
With oil showing some weakness Monday morning, it’s possible motorists could be in store for a continuing downward trend this week. Expectations are that Wednesday’s weekly report from the EIA will show a decline in crude oil inventories as refiners complete the bulk of maintenance and ramp up refining, while gasoline inventories may show a decline as refiners purge remaining winter gasoline.