AAA: Gas prices lowest in April in years

AAA LogoPrices at the pump continue to stabilize throughout most of the country.  The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.52 Friday, up a penny from a week ago.  This price is 12 cents less than one month ago and 28 cents less than one year ago.  Gas prices nationally averaged $3.55 per gallon in April, which was the least expensive average for the month since 2010.  Gas prices dropped about 13 cents per gallon in April (3.5 percent), which was the largest percentage decline for the month in ten years. In comparison, gas prices in 2012 averaged $3.89 for the month, while the average price in April 2011 was $3.79 per gallon.  The national average is down 27 cents from the peak 2013 price to date of $3.79 on Feb. 27.

Crude oil saw some ups and downs throughout the week, through remained above the $90 per barrel mark.  On Thursday, the commodity jumped 3.3 percent to settle just below the $94 mark (at $93.99), the highest single-day rise since November 6, 2012.  Though weak demand, high U.S. inventories and poor manufacturing data from China had pushed crude lower days prior (down 3.7 percent over the previous two days), signs of economic growth strengthened crude by week’s end.  Factors influencing crude’s rise included U.S. unemployment benefits hitting a five-year low last week and the European Central Bank cutting interest rates.  Crude oil settled at $95.61 Friday, up nearly 3 percent for the week.

In its weekly report, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed crude oil stocks jumped 6.7 million barrels to 395.3 million barrels, to their highest levels since 1981.  This puts inventory levels some 13% ahead of the five-year average for the last week of April.  Gasoline inventories dropped by 1.8 million barrels to 216 million barrels, but it was the demand figure that was most concerning.  Gasoline demand was measured at just 8.415 million barrels per day (bpd), a number typical for February, but certainly not late April.  On a four-week running average basis, gasoline demand is now 156,000 bpd behind last year’s rate for the same period. Conceivably, year-to-date gasoline demand could soon move negative to 2012 levels.

“Gas prices have fallen faster and earlier than ever before for this time of year, and it is saving motorists millions of dollars per day in lower fuel costs,” said Martha M. Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Across much of the country, gas prices have declined this spring because of lower oil costs, ample refinery production and continued weak demand.  AAA believes gas prices should drop to $3.20 to $3.40 per gallon by mid-summer if current trends continue.”

Gas prices in recent years have declined in early summer after reaching a springtime peak as refineries ramp up gasoline production in anticipation of the summer driving season.  Families taking trips this summer can expect to pay lower gas prices than recent years as long as there are not any refinery problems or significant international news events.  Lower prices should bring at least some relief to everyone going on vacation, but it is clear that millions of motorists will continue to believe that prices are too high for this time of year.

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