U.S. Gasoline Price Falls to $3.41 a Gallon, Study Shows

The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. filling stations fell 6.77 cents in the past three weeks to $3.4103 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the three weeks ended July 13 and is based on information received from about 2,500 stations by the Camarillo, California-based company. The average is down 20.47 cents from a year earlier. Gasoline is 55.67 cents below the year-to-date high of $3.9671 reached April 6.

“This maybe is it for the decline,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Higher crude oil prices is one reason. And the other reason is demand: Not only are we in the normal seasonal surge for gasoline, but we are also increasing our demand year over year. One reason for that is the price incentive.”

Prices at the pump fell as West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped $7.34, or 9.2 percent, in three weeks to $87.10 a barrel on July 13. Futures have declined 21 percent since reaching a year-to-date settlement high of $109.77 on Feb. 24.

Gasoline Futures

Gasoline futures on the Nymex surged 24.62 cents, or 9.6 percent, in the three weeks ended July 13 to $2.8161. Gasoline has lost 18 percent since reaching a year-to-date high of $3.4166 on March 26.

Crude oil and gasoline have risen on speculation that a struggling U.S. jobs market, Europe’s debt crisis and a slowdown in China will prompt more fiscal easing to stimulate growth.

Chinese gross domestic product expanded at a three-year-low 7.6 percent last quarter from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said July 13. Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to intensify fine-tuning of policies as downward pressure on the economy remains “relatively large,” according to a July 8 report by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said July 13 that the central bank may need to initiate a new program of asset purchases if recent economic weakness persists and undermines his forecast for a pickup in the second half of the year.

Refinery Shutdowns

The policy-making Federal Open Market Committee voted last month to extend its maturity extension program, known as Operation Twist, and said it would consider additional stimulus if needed.

Medley Global Advisors predicted in a July 13 report that the European Central Bank will ease monetary policy further. European leaders on June 29 eased repayment rules for Spanish banks, alleviating concern that the region’s debt crisis will spread and curb fuel demand.

Gasoline also has gained as refinery shutdowns tightened stockpiles of summer-blend reformulated gasoline, or RBOB, in New York Harbor. East Coast stockpiles of RBOB fell 5.3 percent to 14.6 million barrels, 8.8 percent below a year earlier, in the week ended July 6, according to Energy Department data.

Oil may fall next week on concern that weaker economic growth may reduce fuel demand, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Fourteen of 34 analysts, or 41 percent, forecast crude will drop through July 20. Twelve respondents, or 35 percent, predicted that futures will rise and eight said there will be little change in prices. Last week, 48 percent of analysts projected a gain.

On Long Island, regular gasoline was $3.70 a gallon, according to Lundberg. Los Angeles-area retail stations averaged $3.65.

The highest price in the lower 48 U.S. states among the cities surveyed was in Chicago, where the average was $3.78 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Jackson, Mississippi, where customers paid an average of $3 a gallon.

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