Are gasoline prices peaking?
Maybe, price surveys from AAA show. The national average is down about 1.5 cents in the last few days to $3.771 a gallon.
AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report shows the national average price of unleaded gasoline at $3.771 a gallon. That's down from $3.786 on Wednesday. And the average has refused to break $3.80.
It is true, however, that the price of gas at the pump is still up nearly 15% this year. So, it's OK to grumble that the decline in the average over the last few days is so small.
It's possible, moreover, that the decline will be short lived.
A year ago, prices moved steadily higher beginning on Jan. 1 before pausing at around $3.77 a gallon. Then, the price moved up again before peaking for the year at $3.936 a gallon on April 6.
But there will be a peak in 2013, perhaps in the spring as oil companies finish their annual maintenance on refineries and build up enough gasoline formulated for summer driving. Gasoline prices have looked like they're ready to peak for a week or two. One reason is that crude oil is coming down.
Crude oil in New York fell 5.6% in February and was down $1.48 to $90.57 a barrel just before Friday's close. Brent crude, which has a huge influence on gasoline pump prices, was down 86 cents to $110.52 on Friday after falling 3.6% in February.
The declines have been due to reports that oil production among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was rising.
In addition, traders saw softer-than-expected growth in Chinese manufacturing and the uncertainty of the effect of automatic spending cuts in the U.S. hurting demand.
While the national average is below $4, the average price was above $4 in four states: Alaska, Hawaii, California and New York.
Retail prices are above $4 in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu, according to Gasbuddy.com. The most expensive gas is in Santa Barbara, Calif., at $4.365 a gallon. The cheapest is in Billings, Mont. at $3.261 a gallon.
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These hot movers could rise by double digits in coming months.
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