Gas prices continue pullback

Gas prices continued to retreat, pulling back from the projected $4.00 season high this week, just in time for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The national average price of regular grade gasoline was $3.89 a gallon on Friday, down 9 from last week, yet 5 cents higher than month ago prices and $1.05 higher than year ago prices. Prices at the pump remain 22 cents below the all-time record of $4.11 set in summer 2008.

“Motorists continue to enjoy victory, albeit slow in coming, at the pump as gas prices continue to retreat just in time for the long-anticipated Memorial Day holiday weekend. Have we seen the gas price peak for summer 2011? Analysts say we have, which is welcome news for motorists,” said Martha M. Meade, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Crude oil prices remained volatile this week, responding to weak U.S. economic data and the European debt crisis, fueling concerns about demand. Coinciding with a broad decline across commodity markets, crude oil traded in the narrow range of between $96 and $101 per barrel for the week, settling over $100 Wednesday and again Friday. A stronger U.S. dollar pushed crude oil to settle at $100.10 for the week, down 14 percent since the beginning of the month.

In its weekly report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed crude stocks remained virtually unchanged, posting a slight drop of 15,000 barrels to remain at 370.3 million barrels, contrary to expectations for a build. Gasoline stocks rose 100,000 barrels to 205.9 million barrels, levels nearly 16 million barrels below last year.

The EIA also reported that total petroleum demand over the last few weeks has averaged 18.65 million barrels per day (bpd) versus 19.21 million bpd in the same four weeks of 2010, or 2.3 percent behind last year.

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