Why Gas Prices May Fall by Up to 20 Cents by Memorial Day

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U.S. retail gasoline pump prices fell by nearly four cents last week to a national average of $2.85 for a gallon of regular gas. Worries over a further slowing of the global economy were fired by rising tensions between the United States and China after the world’s two largest economies failed to reach a trade deal. Barely two weeks ago, pump prices were nearing a 12-month high.

A report late Sunday that two tankers were “attacked” while passing through the Straits of Hormuz sent prices higher Monday morning, although they have since fallen as U.S. equity markets sink. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude jumped by nearly $2 a barrel before U.S. markets opened but traded down about 0.8% at our latest look

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, commented, “Relief at the pump has indeed begun across the country with a majority of states seeing average prices decline versus a week ago, giving solid evidence the worst is likely behind us.”

DeHaan continued, “For most Americans, I think we’ll slowly all join in on the falling prices and by June, the national average may stand 5-20 cents lower than today, provided there’s no trade deal with the U.S. and China, whereas a trade deal could lead to a second hurrah at the pump.”

Retail gas prices rose only in about a dozen states last week. The most common price for a gallon of regular gas dipped to $2.69 a gallon. Gas at the most expensive 10% of U.S. gas stations averaged $3.93, while prices at the least expensive 10% of gas stations averaged $2.40. The median price at all stations was $2.70, which is seven cents a gallon below last week’s median.

At the same time last month, gas prices averaged $2.84, nearly two cents below the current price. A year ago, the national average price was about $2.87, or two cents higher than the most recent price.

California drivers are paying $4.09 on average for a gallon for gas this morning, with drivers in Hawaii ($3.79), Nevada ($3.50), Washington ($3.48) and Alaska ($3.46) rounding out the five states with the highest prices. Drivers in Oregon, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Utah, Idaho and Connecticut are also paying more than $3 a gallon.

At the other end of the spectrum, drivers in Louisiana ($2.48), Alabama ($2.48), Mississippi ($2.48), South Carolina ($2.48) and Arkansas ($2.52) are paying the least for gas.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for June delivery traded down about 0.8% just after noon Monday, at $61.16 a barrel, while Brent for July delivery traded at $70.23, down about 0.6%. The price differential (spread) between front-month WTI and Brent crude is now around $9.07 a barrel, 17 cents wider than a week ago.

Much of the difference among state gas prices comes down to a state’s gasoline taxes. In California, for instance, state and federal taxes total 73.58 cents per gallon; in Missouri taxes are less than half that.

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