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Christmas comes early at the gas pump

Even with a recent slight uptick in prices, Americans are paying about 20 cents less for a gallon of gasoline than at this time last year.

By Money Staff Nov 19, 2013 1:52PM

This post comes from Beth Braverman at partner site The Fiscal Times.


The Fiscal Times on MSN MoneyConsumer pocketbooks will be a little fatter this November and December, thanks to gas prices, which are at their lowest level in three years this holiday season.


National average prices ticked up a few cents this week, but at a current $3.20 per gallon, they're still more than 20 cents lower than they were a year ago. They've been on a downward trend since Labor Day.  In fact, we're paying the same amount today per gallon as we did in 1980 -- 33 years ago, adjusted for inflation, when the average price was $1.13.


The drop in prices reflects a variety of factors including a seasonal slowdown in demand, a quieter-than-normal hurricane season in the Gulf, and increased domestic production. The United States is expected to pass Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top oil producer by 2015.


"Until a few years ago, the great problem in North America was the uncertainty of supply," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with "Now the problem in North America is uncertainty of demand."


Although the nominal price of gas has increased nearly six-fold since 1976, the real price has only increased about 43 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.


Gas prices in five states have fallen below $3 per gallon, but that’s not a trend expected throughout the country. Through January, prices will likely remain in the $3.05-$3.15 band, Kloza predicts.


Kloza believes that low gas prices throughout this year will mean Americans will have directly spent a collective $12 billion less fueling their cars in 2013 than in 2012.The average annual price for a gallon of gas is expected to average $3.50 per gallon in 2013, and to fall to $3.39 per gallon next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2012, gas prices averaged $3.63 per gallon.


While economists agree that the lower prices will likely remain in place through the end of the year, but they're divided as to whether that trend will translate into a more consumer spending on the all-important holiday season.


Gas pump © Thinkstock, Jupiterimages


Ben Herzon, a senior economist sees the gas prices leading to an increase in consumption of just $2.5 billion to $3 billion in the fourth quarter, a negligible amount in overall economic growth. "In terms of gross domestic product growth, that barely rounds up to 1/10 of a percent," Herzon says.


Carl Riccadonna, a senior economist with Deutsche Bank, sees gas prices adding $12 billion to $26 billion to the economy, a considerably higher but still relatively modest amount in terms of GDP. "However, [prices are] having some impact on consumer spending patterns -- as evidenced by the falling share of retail sales going to gas stations in retail months," he wrote in a recent research note. "Thus the ongoing decline in gasoline prices is providing a modest tailwind to consumption at a critical time of the year for retailers."


Retailers can use all the help they can get, given the shortened holiday shopping season (Thanksgiving and Christmas are six days closer together this year than in 2012), and waning consumer confidence. The Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index fell 1.2 points in October to 72, its lowest level in more than two years.


Still, holiday sales are expected to increase 3.9 percent this year, to more than $602 billion, according projections from the National Retail Federation. That's a small uptick from the 3.5 percent hike in sales last year, and higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of about 3.3 percent.


More from The Fiscal Times:



Nov 19, 2013 3:52PM
Sad times when we have been dumbed down into thinking that $3.00 a gallon is "like Christmas". Where is the outrage like in 2005 and 2006 when we all said $ 2.12 a gallon what the hell!?
Nov 19, 2013 3:56PM
Too bad,wages have not gone up adjusted to inflation. A lot of people make that same $ 9 or $ 10/per hr. now as they have in the eighties. So this is pure nonsense. A gallon of Gas in 1986 was about 80 cents. 
Nov 19, 2013 3:27PM
Quoted text:"Even with a recent slight uptick in prices"

i live in the NY metro area and gas on Friday was $2.97 a gallon....yesterday, (3 days later) the same stations jumped to $3.13 a gallon (.16 cent increase).  Is that a slight uptick???
Nov 19, 2013 3:45PM
I would hardly call it Christmas.  Just some minor relief from inflated prices.
Nov 19, 2013 3:43PM
Nov 19, 2013 4:05PM
I'd like to go back to 1996 when I first started driving where $20.00 filled up my tank, bought me a pack of cigarettes and I still got change back...just sayin
Nov 19, 2013 4:03PM

Gas is overpriced at $2.05 per gallon....

Therefore a 20 cent decrease in a greatly inflated price

of $3 a gal or more is no great Christmas at the pumps!!!

Nov 19, 2013 3:56PM
Enjoy it while you can. It's no secret that the petroleum industry can do whatever it wants with gas prices. They're self regulating, meaning that they run themselves. If one refinery goes down for repairs, all gas produces seem to be allowed to raise prices, to compensate. Totally illogical, as only the affected company should have need for a price change,not the entire industry. Just like Enron, in the 90's, the petroleum industry has no ethics and runs itself. Just fat cats getting fatter, off our money.
Nov 19, 2013 4:02PM
Gas was $1.90 when Bush left office.
Nov 19, 2013 4:10PM
$3.20 per gallon is like Christmas???  Really???
Nov 19, 2013 3:59PM
In Beckley, WV, $3.39 a gallon, reason given is the long distance fuel trucks have to travel.  I also believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. Being robbed daily and the government couldn't care less, being in the oil companies back pocket!!!!
Nov 19, 2013 3:48PM
Orlando, Florida. 2 days it went from $3.33 a gallon to $ 3.15 then to $3.05 and overnight back to $ 3.25. They are just warming themselves to convince the public what a great deal they are getting. Me, I just bought a Vespa with a 150cc engine that will give me 80 MPG.
Nov 19, 2013 4:13PM

The Price of gas throughout this year prevents me from purchasing too many gifts during this holiday season last season and probably next season as well.


A majority of my money goes into that gas tank thus no extra to spend on the Holiday Season, thus most of my gifts shall be homemade this years and wrapped in extra newspaper!


One day this nation will wake up to the damage of Greedy Corps, especially those in the Oil Biz! In fact I don't think that our economy will ever recover as long as the price of gas remains highly inflated!

Nov 19, 2013 5:08PM

Another bullsh*t, propaganda article from the propaganda-pushing media.

Do they honestly believe that this makes anyone feel good about (or better) about the present administration (or any administration, for that matter) and/or the current state of the economy???

Nov 19, 2013 5:00PM
It's not Christmas at the gas pump if I'm paying 20 cents less than the all time high--it means gas prices are still TOO HIGH
Nov 19, 2013 3:55PM

I still remember the .99cent gas wars at the pumps during the 90s. If this new nuclear deal with Iran actually does go through, we should be seeing record lows prior to 2000 once the sanctions are lifted on Iran and Iranian oil.


Lowest pump price here in S.Cali yesterday... 3.49 a gallon. 3.69 down at the Chevron on the corner.

Nov 19, 2013 4:29PM
Nov 19, 2013 4:42PM
Wrong $3 a gallon is still ****.   How can something all of a sudden just triple in price one year then never go back down, only for some cocksneeze to say, "its xmas at the gas pump."   You skull n bones/oil fat cats can go **** yourself in your greedy ****.  Spike in gas prices, stagnant wages, and a moron in the whitehouse who thinks he can solve the problem by printing a shitload of $$$ to keep interest rates down.  What happens when the music stops and the economy doesn't receive any more "stimulus?"  Get your guns and load up on ammo and perishables folks.   Not gonna be pretty
Nov 19, 2013 4:23PM
You guys want an up-tick??   Some stations in Col. OH last weekend went from $2.93 to $3.29....a 36 cent increase.  They do this all the time in Ohio...we call it "The Game".
Nov 19, 2013 4:27PM
It appears that the ONLY ones getting a great Christmas are the oil companies.  Ebenzer Scrooge and the Grench should team up and make it an even worse Christmas.
If anyone has a viable idea to put it to the oil companies, please share it with the rest of us.........Boycotting them isn't an option because they will wait you out until you and I need gas to go to work, the drs. etc.  
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