(GasBuddy) For the fourth straight week, the nation’s average gas price has fallen, declining 5.3 cents from a week ago and stands at $3.34 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 6.9 cents from a month ago and $1.19 per gallon higher than a year ago. The national average price of diesel has fallen 1.8 cents in the last week and stands at $3.607 per gallon.

“The downturn in average gas prices continued to gain momentum last week as oil prices remained at a hefty discount. This is largely due to continued anxiety over the omicron variant and because some countries have begun issuing lockdowns, keeping motorists in some countries from consuming as much fuel,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “While the Great Lakes region, the fastest to see prices respond to market fluctuations, is seeing hefty monthly declines approaching 30 cents per gallon, much of the rest of the country is lagging behind. But, we will see precipitous declines in the next week or two as stations continue to sell through higher priced inventory before slowly lowering their prices. It’s not impossible given the conditions that price wars, where stations lower their price significantly, could emerge as stations now have considerable room to lower prices.”

OIL PRICES
Crude oil prices have seen more volatility in the last week as headlines surrounding omicron weigh on oil markets in addition to OPEC’s decision to continue increasing oil production. As a result, markets last week plunged after OPEC agreed to continue the monthly 400,000 barrel increases in oil production, causing oil prices to plunge last week. In early Monday trade, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude was up $1.92 to $68.18 per barrel, some $4 below their open last Monday. Brent crude oil was up $1.94 to $71.82 per barrel in early Monday trade, nearly $5 below the same level a week ago. It should be noted that OPEC’s meeting remains “in session” in the case of changes in the pandemic in the weeks ahead, which could lead to OPEC’s longest open meeting on record. Should omicron see some level of discovery that leads nation’s to close borders beyond their previous moves, OPEC could step in to immediately cut production.

According to Baker Hughes, last week’s U.S. rig count was unchanged at 569, and was 246 rigs higher than a year ago. The Canadian rig count rose by 9 to 180, or 78 more than a year ago.

OIL AND REFINED PRODUCT INVENTORIES
According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. crude oil inventories fell last week by 900,000 million barrels and stand about 6% below the five year average for this time of year. Gasoline inventories jumped 4 million barrels and are about 5% below the five year average range. Distillate inventories increased 2.2 million barrels and stand 9% below the five year average range. Implied gasoline demand fell 538,000 barrels to 8.8 million barrels per day, while refinery utilization ticked 0.2 percentage points higher to 88.8% of capacity last week. Systemwide, inventories are still a bit tight, but with gasoline’s big build last week, things are improving.

FUEL DEMAND
According to GasBuddy demand data driven by its Pay with GasBuddy card, U.S. retail gasoline demand jumped last week (Sun-Sat) as motorists turned back to their normal habits after the Thanksgiving holiday. Nationally, weekly gasoline demand was up 3.4% from the prior week, while demand rose 4.2% in PADD 1, rose 2.5% in PADD 2, rose 4.1% in PADD 3, fell 1.7% in PADD 4 and rose 4.4% in PADD 5.

GAS PRICE TRENDS
The most common U.S. gas price encountered by motorists stood at $3.19 per gallon, unchanged from last week, followed by $2.99, $3.29, $3.09 and $3.49 rounding out the five most common prices.
The average cost at the priciest 10% of stations stands at $4.42 per gallon, up 2 cents from a week ago, while the lowest 10% average $2.80 per gallon, down 5 cents from a week ago.
The median U.S. price is $3.23 per gallon, a decline of 5 cents from last week and about 11 cents lower than the national average.
The states with the lowest average prices: Oklahoma ($2.89), Texas ($2.92) and Arkansas ($2.95).
The states with the highest priced states: California ($4.69), Hawaii ($4.32) and Nevada ($3.94).