(GasBuddy) – For the first time in several weeks, the nation’s average price of gasoline has inched up, rising a mere 0.4 cents from a week ago to $3.51 per gallon yesterday, according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 11 million individual price reports covering over 150,000 gas stations across the country. But according to the analysis, we may not see gas prices as high as $4 in the near future after all.

The national average is down 14.9 cents from a month ago and 95.6 cents per gallon lower than a year ago. The national average price of diesel has fallen 4.0 cents in the last week and stands at $3.97 per gallon, $1.59 lower than one year ago.

“With oil prices bouncing back over $70 per barrel after reaching as low as $66 in early May, we’ve seen gasoline prices move higher in some states, while others have continued to decline- the national average has seen little change as a result, but overall, gasoline prices continue to see significant relief from year-ago levels,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “We’re likely to soon see gasoline prices slip to their largest year-on-year deficit since Covid hit, when prices fell over $1 per gallon from 2019. So the relief at the pump has been significant, and even though the gas price decline hit pause last week, it’s looking more likely that, barring a major hurricane or series of refinery outages, the national average may not end up hitting the $4 per gallon mark—something that will make most motorists very happy. For those in Arizona that have seen gas prices spike during the spring, significant relief is starting and should even accelerate over the weeks ahead.”

With continued discussion over the U.S. hitting its debt limit, oil prices have seen additional volatility on the presumption that failure to reach an agreement could push the U.S. closer to a recession, while a deal could be seen as boosting the economy by avoiding shutdown. After another volatile week last week, oil prices were in the black to start the new week, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil up 73 cents to $70.77 per barrel, still over a $2 drop from last Monday’s $72.97 per barrel start. Brent crude oil was also trading higher Monday morning, rising 71 cents to $74.88 per barrel, just under a $2 per barrel drop from last week’s $76.79 per barrel start. While oil inventories remain tight, potentially a bullish condition for oil, much of it is being offset by economic anxiety over rising interest rates and the debt ceiling.

Last week’s report from the Energy Information Administration showed a 3-million-barrel increase in oil inventories, as the SPR fell 2.9 million barrels due to mandated releases as part of the 2015 budget. The SPR now stands exactly a third below its year-ago level at 362 million barrels, while domestic oil production was unchanged at 12.3 million barrels per day. Gasoline inventories saw a hefty 3.2-million-barrel decline and now stand at their lowest-ever level going back to 1990 for early May. Distillate inventories fell an even larger 4.2 million barrels and are now just 2% above a year ago when prices skyrocketed. Refinery utilization rates rose 0.3 percentage points to 91.0%, rising in PADD 3, 4, and 5 while falling in PADD 1 and 2. Overall inventories stand up 78.4 million barrels excluding the SPR, while including the SPR, inventories are down 102.6 million barrels.

According to GasBuddy demand data driven by its Pay with GasBuddy™ fuel card, U.S. retail gasoline demand saw a drop of 0.6% last week (Sun-Sat). Broken down by PADD region, demand rose 1.3% in PADD 1, fell 1.8% in PADD 2, fell 3.6% in PADD 3, rose 0.1% in PADD 4, and rose 0.1% in PADD 5.

The most common U.S. gas price encountered by motorists stood at $3.29 per gallon, down 10 cents from last week, followed by $3.39, $3.19, $3.09, and $3.49 rounding out the top five most common prices.
The median U.S. gas price is $3.39 per gallon, up 2 cents from last week and about 12 cents lower than the national average.
The top 10% of stations in the country average $4.74 per gallon, while the bottom 10% average $2.92 per gallon.
The states with the lowest average prices: Mississippi ($2.94), Louisiana ($3.02), and Alabama ($3.05).
The states with the highest average prices: California ($4.75), Hawaii ($4.73), and Arizona ($4.67).

The most common U.S. diesel price stood at $3.99 per gallon, unchanged from last week, followed by $3.89, $3.79, $3.69, and $3.59 rounding out the top five most common prices.
The median U.S. diesel price is $3.89 per gallon, down 5 cents from last week and about 8 cents lower than the national average for diesel.
Diesel prices at the top 10% of stations in the country average $5.03 per gallon, while the bottom 10% average $3.21 per gallon.
The states with the lowest average diesel prices: Texas ($3.36), Louisiana ($3.55), and Oklahoma ($3.57).
The states with the highest average diesel prices: Hawaii ($5.81), California ($5.04), and Washington ($4.90).