Gas Prices Ticked Higher Last Week

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The price for a gallon of regular gasoline remained near its lowest level in more than two years this week at a national average of $2.25 a gallon. That’s three cents more than its lowest price (a half cent higher than last week) and more than 32 cents lower than at the same time a year ago.

The nation’s gasoline inventories remain at high levels as U.S. refineries prepare to enter maintenance season, which typically sees the bulk of maintenance beginning in mid-February and lasting through April. Freezing temperatures predicted to grip much of the country this week also are likely to dampen gasoline demand.

The national average barely moved higher last week while the lowest price stations overall were the locations that saw prices tick higher. The share of stations in the United States selling gas for less than $2 per gallon fell from 37% to 27% over the last week as oil prices hold above $53 per barrel.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, commented:

Part of where gas prices go from here and how quickly depends on whether or not politicians can make a long-term budget agreement. Another prolonged shutdown will hurt the economy and likely keep gas prices more muted. In addition, watch for any progress of a broad trade deal with China. Even the sub-zero temperatures expected in many areas could play a role in gasoline prices, diesel prices and heating oil: it may keep Americans at home, using more heavy oils to heat their home.

Average gas prices rose in 19 states last week, declined in 30 and remained unchanged in one. The states where prices per gallon changed the most year over year are North Carolina (up 5.6 cents), Alaska (down 5.4 cents), Connecticut (down 5.4 cents), Idaho (down 5.4 cents) and Georgia (up 5.0 cents).

States with the lowest average prices are Oklahoma ($1.88), Missouri ($1.92), Arkansas ($1.92), Louisiana ($1.95) and Mississippi ($1.96).

The highest average prices per gallon last week were reported from Hawaii ($3.48), California ($3.23), Washington ($2.89), Nevada ($2.84) and Alaska ($2.84).

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for March delivery traded down about 3.9% in the early afternoon Monday at $51.61 while Brent for March delivery traded at $59.74, down about 3%. The price differential (spread) between front-month WTI and Brent crude is now around $8.15 a barrel, slightly narrower than it was earlier this month.