National gas price average starts dropping for first time in two weeks

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FILE – In this Thursday, July 16, 2015, file photo, a customer re-fuels her car at a Costco in Robinson Township, Pa. The plunging price of oil in 2016 is dragging stock markets to their worst start to a year ever, even though low fuel prices are great for consumers and most companies. (AP Photo/Gene […]

(GasBuddy) The national average price of gasoline has resumed declining for the first time in two weeks, posting a drop of 2.4 cents over the last week to $2.63 per gallon according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 10.5 million individual price reports covering nearly 150,000 gas stations across the country. The average price of diesel fell 0.6 cents to $2.99 per gallon.

“As expected, the national average has reverted to declining in the midst of resolution to refinery issues in the West Coast, while lower demand also weighs on oil prices, leading to modest relief in some areas of the country,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “While a partial trade deal with China may temporarily interrupt continued relief, the devil will be in the details- will any potential trade deal lead to solid expectations for economic growth in the U.S.? If so, then expect oil prices to follow to higher ground, before tapering off after new optimism brings a small rally to oil, but if the latest talk of a trade deal is believed to be more like lipstick on a pig, then I expect gas prices will continue to decline. Either way, one thing holds true no matter if there’s a trade deal or not: California motorists will see relief in the weeks ahead after refinery issues have abated.”

Oil prices perked up last week on optimism over a Friday trade deal with China as President Trump signaled an extensive deal may be ahead. Oil closed above $54 per barrel Friday, but the optimism seems to have faded over the weekend with reports that China wants more talks before it signs anything. Oil prices moved lower as a result with West Texas Intermediate crude oil falling over 2.25% in early Monday trade to $53.47 per barrel, just 20 cents under where prices opened a week ago. Brent crude oil was at $59.16, some 3 cents higher than a week ago, signaling skepticism over trade talks between the U.S. and China. Oil prices will likely see some volatility this week – factoring in how talks will go and should a significant deal be signed, it will likely bolster both countries’ economies, sending oil demand and prices higher.

Data from the Energy Information Administration last week showed an expected rise in oil inventories, posting a 2.9 million barrel increase as refined product inventories moved lower. Gasoline inventories fell 1.2 million barrels while distillate inventories plummeted nearly 4 million barrels. Refinery maintenance season continued with utilization moving lower by 0.7% of total capacity to 85.7%, a typical number for the middle of said maintenance season.

Gas prices across the U.S. remained a mixed bag with some small price increases spread in among the majority of states that saw prices edge slightly lower. The most common gas price across the country was $2.39 per gallon, followed by $2.29 and $2.49, which switched places from a week ago. The average cost at the priciest 10% of stations was $4.01, a 6 cent per gallon drop from a week ago, while the lowest 10% averaged $2.13, a 3-cent drop. The median U.S. price was $2.47, or 16 cents under the national average as the West Coast continued to have an oversize effect.

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