Gas Prices Holding Steady as Memorial Day Weekend Approaches

Michael Green Contact Tile(WASHINGTON, May 19, 2014) As we approach the official start of the summer driving season, drivers across the nation continue to see prices moving a little bit lower at the pump. Today’s national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $3.65 per gallon, and has remained relatively unchanged over the past seven days. The average price at the pump is one cent less than one week ago, two cents less than the same time last month and fractions of a penny cheaper than the same date one year ago.  The year-over-year savings mark the first time prices were cheaper than a year ago since April 8.

In comparison to the Monday before Memorial Day in recent years, today’s price is one cent less than 2013 ($3.65), five cents less than 2012 ($3.69) and 21 cents less than 2011 ($3.84).

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The national average ended a 16-day streak of daily declines last week, but has still dropped on 18 of the last 21 days.  Reported increases in retail demand due to warmer temperatures are adding some upward pressure on wholesale prices, and the rise in demand is beginning to outpace the increases in supplies. Even with these minor fluctuations in price, the national average is expected to remain well below last year’s peak price of $3.79 per gallon (February 27).

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Over the past seven days drivers in 35 states have seen a modest discount at the pump, led by: Iowa (- 6 cents), California (- 4 cents), and Nebraska, Florida, Alabama and Maine (-3 cents). The price at the pump in the majority (30) of states now reflects a month-over-month discount.  Three states have bucked the trend and have posted double-digit premiums over this same period: Alaska (+ 14 cents), Idaho (+22 cents) and Utah (+26 cents), although prices in each state – like the national average – are comparable to the same date last year and the price in Alaska is in fact a dime less.

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While drivers in 30 states and the District of Columbia are paying a year-over-year premium, consumers in a handful of markets are experiencing dramatic savings at the pump versus a year ago: Minnesota (-78 cents), North Dakota (-64 cents), Nebraska and Iowa (-55 cents), and Oklahoma (-50 cents).  These lofty discounts are due to Midwestern refinery issues last year, which saw regional prices spike. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the price at the pump in 21 states and the District of Columbia reflects a double-digit yearly increase, with the largest premiums being paid in Pennsylvania (+29 cents), South Carolina and Alabama (+22 cents), and North Carolina (+20 cents).

Political tensions between Russia and the Ukraine continue to keep global markets on edge and are being closely monitored by market watchers for any signs of escalation.  Last Friday, President Putin sent a letter to European Union governments indicating that a disruption in supply may be on the horizon.  Although analysts report the probability of a long-term disruption is relatively low, a cutoff of supply by Russia could have ripple effects that would be felt in Europe and the United States.  At the close of formal trading on the NYMEX, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil settled 59 cents higher at $102.61 per barrel.

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