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U.S. gasoline prices fall to $2.56/gallon

* Gasoline prices fall 10 cents per gallon over 2 weeks

* First significant decline since December

* Gasoline prices seen falling more as unemployment weighs

NEW YORK, July 12 (Reuters) - The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States fell to $2.56 per gallon over the last two weeks as unemployment hurt demand, sending prices down 38 percent from a record high touched almost exactly one year ago, according to an industry survey.

Gasoline prices may fall even more if the price of crude oil continues to drop and unemployment remains high, said the editor of the survey.

U.S. employers cut far more jobs than expected last month and the government reported on July 2 that the unemployment rate hit 9.5 percent in June, the highest in nearly 26 years. [ID:nN02549309] [ID:nSP476861]

According to the nationwide Lundberg survey of gas stations, Americans are paying about $1.55 less per gallon than they were on July 11, 2008, when the price-per-gallon of gas touched a high of $4.11.

“Demand has been hit by the poor economy,” said survey editor Trilby Lundberg. “We have a glut of oil and very, very flush gasoline supplies because demand has been damaged by unemployment.”

Two weeks ago, the national average for self-serve, regular unleaded gas was $2.6613 per gallon.

“It’s the first significant decline in the retail price of gasoline since last December,” said Lundberg, adding that gas prices are likely to fall more.

“(The price declines) may be a few cents in the immediate future, or as great as 25 cents per gallon, depending on what crude oil does, and depending on unemployment,” she said.

At $2.26 per gallon, Wichita, Kansas, had the lowest average price for self-serve, regular unleaded gas, while Honolulu, Hawaii, had the highest price at $3.20 per gallon.


Crude oil prices dropped to $59.89 per barrel on July 10, down $9.27 per barrel from the previous survey, said Lundberg.

“If crude oil prices stay as low as they are, below $60 per barrel, then we can expect some further pass-through of that oil price cut at the pump,” said Lundberg in an interview.

The U.S. average retail price of diesel is $2.61, down 4.25 cents from the survey two weeks ago. The price has fallen $2.19 from last year because of sliding demand.

“There’s a surplus of petroleum on the market because demand has been hit by the poor economy,” said Lundberg. (Reporting by Chelsea Emery; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)