Gasoline at the pump slipped below year-earlier levels for the first time since October 2009, according to data from AAA, the largest U.S. motoring club.
The national average price for regular gasoline fell 0.9 cent yesterday to $3.849 a gallon, according to Heathrow, Florida-based AAA. That’s down from $3.86 a year earlier and the lowest level since March 19.
Prices have dropped 8.7 cents since reaching a 2012 high of $3.936 on April 4. They may keep declining as U.S. and European plants complete spring maintenance and refiners negotiate to sell East Coast operations that the market had expected would be closed this summer.
“Gasoline has peaked,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston. “The next couple of weeks, prices will continue to decline as U.S. refineries return from turnaround and European refiners return from their maintenance and we get more gasoline imports.”
Sunoco Inc. will operate its 355,000-barrel-a-day Philadelphia refinery through July, a month longer than previously announced, as the oil company negotiates with Carlyle Group to form a joint venture and keep the refinery open, according to a statement from Sunoco yesterday.
Delta Airlines Inc. is vying for a shuttered 190,000-barrel-a-day ConocoPhillips refinery in Pennsylvania, two people familiar with the matter said last week.
“The idea that we may have somebody buying those refineries and keeping them running deflated some of those fears of capacity coming off the market,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “Our gasoline rally may have peaked several weeks ago.”
Retail prices peaked in 2011 at $3.985 on May 4. The highest recorded average price was $4.114 on July 17, 2008, according to AAA data.