(GasBuddy) For the fourth straight week, the nation’s average gas price has fallen, declining 15.8 cents from a week ago to $3.36 per gallon Monday according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 11 million individual price reports covering over 150,000 gas stations across the country. The national average is down 43.0 cents from a month ago and 1.5 cents per gallon higher than a year ago. The national average price of diesel has fallen 13.6 cents in the last week and stands at $5.06 per gallon.

“For the first time in 670 days, the national average price of gasoline has fallen below its year-ago level, dropping for the fourth straight week to its lowest level since January,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Every state has again seen average gasoline prices drop in the last week, and it remains very possible the national average could fall under $3 per gallon by Christmas. There has also been a drop in diesel prices, which this week will fall back under $5 per gallon, and could soon thereafter fall to their lowest level since March. However, despite all the good news about fuel prices, there may be some concerns coming as the price cap on Russian oil kicks in. Retaliation is possible, and while OPEC+ upheld production cuts from last month, they could always cut more production. For now, however, we’ll likely see another week of declines at the pump in nearly all areas.”

OIL PRICES

With OPEC+ agreeing to maintain November’s oil output cuts, the EU’s $60 per barrel price cap on Russian oil, and the EU/G7 sanctions on Russian exports in place, oil was in rally mode to start the week. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was last up $2.01 per barrel to $81.99, up over $7/bbl from last Monday’s $74.22 print. Brent crude oil was also up, rising $2.08 per barrel to $87.65, over $6 higher than last Monday. In addition, it is largely expected that with China may consider and soon re-open parts of major cities and ease its Covid-zero policies, boosting oil consumption.

According to Baker Hughes, last week’s U.S. rig count was unchanged at 784 and was 215 rigs higher than a year ago. The Canadian rig count was up 1 rig to 195 and was 15 rigs higher than a year ago.

OIL AND REFINED PRODUCTS

Last week’s report from the Energy Information Administration showed a large 12.6 million barrel decline in U.S. oil inventories, which now stand nearly 3% below the year ago level, and 8% below the five year average range for this time of year. The SPR fell 1.4 million barrels to 389 million barrels, 35.4% below the year ago level, while domestic crude oil production held unchanged at 12.1 million barrels per day. Gasoline inventories rose by 2.8 million barrels, with notable increases in both PADD 1 and PADD 5. Distillate inventories also tacked on a gain, rising 3.5 million barrels to close the year-ago deficit to just 11.2 million barrels. Implied gasoline demand, a proxy for retail consumption, fell 9,000 barrels per day to 8.32 million barrels per day, while refinery utilization increased 1.3 percentage points to 95.2%, an unseasonably high figure. Total oil inventories are down nearly 11 million barrels from a year ago, but including the SPR are down 224 million barrels.

FUEL DEMAND

According to GasBuddy demand data driven by its Pay with GasBuddy card, U.S. retail gasoline demand rose last week (Sun-Sat) by 2.3%, bouncing back the week after Thanksgiving. Broken down by PADD region, demand rose 1.4% in PADD 1, rose 2.5% in PADD 2, rose 5.0% in PADD 3, rose 1.2% in PADD 4, and rose 1.8% in PADD 5.

GAS PRICE TRENDS

The most common U.S. gas price encountered by motorists stood at $2.99 per gallon, down 40 cents from last week, followed by $3.29, $3.19, $3.09 and $3.39 rounding out the top five most common prices.

The median U.S. gas price is $3.25 per gallon, down 14 cents from last week and about 11 cents lower than the national average.

The top 10% of stations in the country average $4.58 per gallon, while the bottom 10% average $2.63 per gallon.

The states with the lowest average prices: Texas ($2.72), Oklahoma ($2.79), and Arkansas ($2.88).

The states with the highest average prices: Hawaii ($5.08), California ($4.67), and Nevada ($4.44).