Gasoline at U.S. Pumps Drops to Six-Month Low on Falling Oil

Gasoline pump prices in the U.S. dropped to a six-month low amid falling oil prices and slowing economic growth, a government report today showed.

The price for regular gasoline, averaged nationwide, fell 8.1 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $3.356 a gallon today from a week ago, according to the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration. The price was 6.2 percent below year-ago levels, a report posted on the agency’s website shows.

U.S. gasoline is at its lowest point since Jan. 2, when it averaged $3.299 a gallon. It’s down 15 percent from this year’s peak of $3.941 a gallon on April 2 after crude fell 18 percent in May and 2.2 percent last month. crude accounts for about 66 percent of the cost of gasoline, according to the department. Refineries restored output following seasonal maintenance, sending gasoline inventories to a seven-week high, department data show.

“Prices are still reflecting, in general, lower crude prices,” said David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates in Irvine, California, an independent fuel consultant. “If there’s any increase in crude prices, it’ll take some time before that change gets reflected at the street level.”

Crude fell today after the biggest rally in three years on concern that economic weakness in the U.S. and Europe will reduce demand. Oil for August delivery fell $1.21, or 1.4 percent, to $83.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices jumped 9.4 percent on June 29 on speculation that European Union leaders will contain the region’s debt crisis.

Stockpile Gain

Motor-gasoline inventories climbed 2.1 million barrels, or 1 percent, to 204.8 million in the week ended June 22, according to the department. That’s the highest level since May 4.

Citgo Petroleum Corp. finished a maintenance turnaround at the 165,000-barrel-a-day Corpus Christi oil refinery in Texas, the company said in an e-mailed statement June 25. Citgo’s 170,500-barrel-a-day Lemont plant also restored production after finishing a turnaround that began around May 1, according to a June 12 statement.

Average U.S. gasoline demand for the four weeks ended June 22 dropped 4.8 percent from a year earlier to 8.83 million barrels a day, department data show.

Gasoline fell the most this week in the Midwest region, where prices dropped 10.8 cents to $3.323 a gallon, today’s report shows.

The Energy Department conducts a telephone survey of about 800 retail gasoline outlets across the U.S. each Monday to post weekly gasoline prices as of 8 a.m. local time that day.

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