Falling Crude Oil Prices Lead to Savings at the Pump

Michael Green Contact Tile(WASHINGTON, October 26 ,2015) Falling crude oil prices supported by builds in domestic inventory have contributed to the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline moving lower over the past several weeks. The average price at the pump has fallen for 17 consecutive days, for a total savings of 12 cents per gallon. The national average currently sits at $2.20 per gallon, the lowest price since February. Motorists are enjoying lower prices at the pump, with today’s average reflecting a discount of six cents per gallon week-over-week and nine cents per gallon month-over-month. Pump prices remain significantly lower than this same date last year and the national average is down 85 cents per gallon.

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This year’s autumn refinery maintenance season has been heavier than usual due to a busy summer driving season, which caused refineries to operate at higher rates for longer periods of time. Although the planned maintenance season is well underway, regional pump prices could remain volatile due to fluctuations in supply and demand. However, ample domestic supply is expected to keep the broader national average relatively steady as the refinery maintenance season concludes. Market fundamentals continue to suggest that the national average could fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark before the end of the year for the first time since 2009, barring any unanticipated disruptions in supply or unforeseen jumps in the price of crude oil.

A total of eight states are posting averages below the $2 per gallon threshold, with consumers in South Carolina ($1.89), Alabama ($1.92) and Mississippi ($1.92) paying the lowest averages at the pump. Drivers in Hawaii ($2.89) are paying the nation’s highest average price to refuel their vehicles, and states located west of the Rockies continue to post the highest averages for retail gasoline. California ($2.85), Nevada ($2.76), Alaska ($2.53) and Washington ($2.45) round out the top five most expensive markets for retail gasoline. For the fourth consecutive week drivers in every state are paying averages below $3 per gallon.

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With the exception of Michigan (+2 cents), drivers nationwide are enjoying weekly savings at the pump. Motorists in more than half (27) of the states are saving a nickel or more per gallon week-over-week and three Midwestern states are posting double-digit savings over this same period: Indiana (-17 cents), Ohio (-16 cents) and Illinois (-11 cents). October has been reported to be a historic month for planned refinery maintenance for the Midwest and price volatility could continue to characterize the regional market leading into the winter months.

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The vast majority of drivers (45 states and Washington, D.C.) are experiencing monthly savings in the price of retail gasoline. Pump prices are down a nickel or more per gallon in 32 states and Washington, D.C., and consumers in 17 states have seen prices decline by double-digit increments month-over-month. Alaska (-52 cents), Indiana (-28 cents), Idaho (-28 cents), Colorado (-26 cents) and Utah (-26 cents) are posting the largest savings in price over this same period. Prices have moved higher in five states, although in a much less dramatic fashion. Iowa (+7 cents) is the only state where drivers are paying a monthly premium of more than nickel per gallon.

Significant yearly discounts in the price of retail gasoline persist, and drivers 45 states and Washington, D.C. are saving at least 75 cents per gallon when they refuel their vehicles. A total of six states are posting year-over-year savings of $1 or more per gallon, with the largest savings at the pump seen in Alaska (-$1.24), Hawaii (-$1.17) and Connecticut (-$1.09). Nevada (-46 cents) remains the only state where drivers are not experiencing yearly saving of at least 50 cents per gallon.

A bearish sentiment continues to prevail in the global oil market and reports are beginning to surface that current low prices for crude oil are impacting outlooks for oil companies, evidenced by announcements in cutbacks and delays in new project investments. Technical experts from both OPEC and non-OPEC countries convened last week, and many hoped action to address the market’s oversupply was on the horizon, but cuts to production were not discussed.

Market watchers to start the week are reportedly focused on a key decision on interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve and economic data from the U.S. The Fed has kept interest rates relatively unchanged since 2008 in effort to stimulate economic growth. An increase in the Fed interest rate typically leads to a strengthening U.S. dollar, which makes oil relatively more expensive for those holding foreign currencies. This move could further exacerbate the market’s current state and keep a ceiling on global oil prices in the near term.

Oil rigs in the U.S. fell for the eighth consecutive week, however the latest data from the U.S. Department of Energy points to an increase in domestic crude oil stocks. West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell below the $45 per barrel benchmark last week for the first time since early October, and closed out Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX down 78 cents with a settlement at $44.60 per barrel.

Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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