U.S. gas prices dip slightly to near $3.63/gallon

NEW YORK Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:27pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. average retail gasoline prices fell over the past two weeks and could ease a bit more in coming weeks due in part to the release of crude oil from the U.S. strategic energy reserve, according to the latest nationwide Lundberg survey.

The national average price for self-serve regular unleaded gas was $3.6283 a gallon on June 24, a decline of about 11 cents in the past two weeks, according to the survey of about 2,500 gas stations.

A year ago, the price was $2.6613.

At $3.32 a gallon, Jackson, Mississippi had the lowest average price for self-serve regular unleaded gas, while Chicago had the highest price at $4.06, the survey found.

Gas prices will continue to fall in part because the International Energy Agency (IEA) said it will release 60 million barrels in July, which caused the price of crude oil to drop, survey editor Trilby Lundberg said.

The IEA, made up of industrialized oil consumer nations including the United States, announced the release of 60 million barrels of oil from strategic government stockpiles in a bid to push down crude prices and underpin the global economy. About one-half of the total will come from the U.S.

Even before the announcement, gas prices were slipping because poor economic news in the U.S. and Europe had been causing pessimism about petroleum demand.

"Unless there was a very severe disruption in the supply of crude, it's safe to say we won't see prices of crude coming back any time soon," Lundberg said.

If crude oil prices stay at their current level, gas prices could fall another five to 10 cents by mid-July, Lundberg said. If crude prices fall further, gas prices could dip as much as 20 cents to 25 cents.

Brent crude prices fell 2 percent on Friday, while U.S. crude ended slightly higher after seesawing and briefly dipping below $90 a barrel.

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