U.S. Gasoline Pump Price Falls 4 Cents to $3.71, EIA Says

Retail gasoline in the U.S. fell below year-earlier levels for a fifth week after oil futures in New York touched a six-month low, dragged down by concern that Europe’s debt troubles will curb fuel demand.

The national average price for regular gasoline dropped 4 cents to $3.714 a gallon from a week earlier, the Energy Information Administration said in the report posted on the its website. The price is down 3.5 percent from a year earlier and the lowest since Feb. 20.

“Crude’s fallen 31 cents a gallon in three weeks, and gasoline prices are down 12 cents,” David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, an independent fuel consultant, said in a telephone interview yesterday from Irvine, California. “If oil continues to bounce around $92 or $93 a barrel, gasoline prices will come off at least another 15 cents a gallon.”

Gasoline at the pump has tumbled 23 cents, or 5.8 percent, since peaking at $3.941 on April 2 as refineries restored service following seasonal maintenance and oil trades under $100 a barrel for the first time in three months.

Average U.S. gasoline demand for the four weeks ended May 11 dropped 2.6 percent from a year earlier to 8.76 million barrels a day, Energy Department data show.

BP Plc, based in London, resumed production at the 234,000 barrel-a-day Cherry Point refinery in Washington state last week following a three-month shutdown, a person familiar with operations there said yesterday.

U.S. Refiners

Motiva Enterprises LLC, based in Houston, finished scheduled maintenance at the 255,000 barrel-a-day Convent refinery in Louisiana that began in mid-March, Emily Oberton, a company spokeswoman in Houston, said May 16.

Sunoco Inc.’s Philadelphia refinery started a 200,000 barrel-a-day crude unit that was shut after a fire on May 9, the company said in a filing with city regulators. The plant can process 355,000 barrels of feedstock a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

U.S. oil inventories climbed to the highest level in almost 22 years in the week ended May 11, rising 0.6 percent to 381.6 million barrels. Stockpiles grew by another 0.4 percent last week to 383.1 million, according to a Bloomberg survey of nine analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow.

Oil for June delivery rose as much as 44 cents to $93.01 a barrel today in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile, extending yesterday’s rise of 1.2 percent. Gasoline for June delivery gained 1.35 cents to $2.9536 a gallon after rising 1.8 percent yesterday.

Retail gasoline fell 6 percent in the U.S. Gulf Coast to $3.489 a gallon, the Energy Department said. Gasoline in the U.S. West Coast increased 5.1 percent from a year earlier to $4.242 a gallon, the agency said.

“The West Coast is still seeing the tail end of some refining problems, perhaps the remaining impact of the BP Cherry Point problem,” Hackett said.

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