National Gas Prices Take a Break While California Tops $4 a Gallon

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For the past two months, retail gasoline prices have been on a steady march higher, from a low of around $2.24 for a gallon of regular gasoline at the beginning of January to $2.84 at the beginning of last week. For the first time in 10 weeks, gas prices did not rise (or fall) by the end of last week.

The hiatus may be brief, however, if U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes an expected announcement ending U.S. waivers for eight countries that have been allowed to buy Iranian oil. Crude prices were up by about 2% early Monday morning.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, commented, “Gas prices continue to drift higher in most states, although the pace has slowed in the last week, but that may end soon as rumors point to an end to U.S.-issued waivers that allowed countries to continue buying oil from Iran that may be announced as soon as tomorrow.”

DeHaan continued, “With such a policy move, if OPEC fails to increase output to offset the likely drop from an end to Iran waivers, expect oil prices to continue to surge. This will cost Americans billions if the Administration enforces the end to waivers.”

Retail gas prices rose in more than two-thirds of the states last week, mostly offset by significant price drops in the Great Lakes region. Michigan saw nine cent a gallon decline, and the price fell by six cents a gallon in Ohio. Kentucky, Indiana and Florida also enjoyed a marked drop.

The most common per-gallon price for gas across the United States remained at $2.69 last week. The average of the most expensive 10% of gas prices was $3.93 a gallon, and the least expensive 10% rose to $2.43 a gallon.

At the same time last month, gas prices averaged $2.62, about 22 cents below the current price. A year ago the national average price was about $2.76, or eight cents lower than the most recent price.

California drivers were paying $4.02 a gallon for gas Monday morning, with drivers in Hawaii ($3.77), Washington ($3.43), Nevada ($3.38) and Oregon ($3.32) rounding out the five states with the highest prices. Drivers in Alaska and Arizona also were paying more than $3 a gallon.

At the other end of the spectrum, drivers in Alabama ($2.49), Mississippi ($2.50), South Carolina ($2.53), Arkansas ($2.53) and Louisiana ($2.53) were paying the least for gas.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for May delivery traded up about 2.3% Monday morning to $65.47, while Brent for June delivery traded at $73.78, up about 2.5%. The price differential (spread) between front-month WTI and Brent crude is now around $8.35 a barrel, sharply wider than a week ago.

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