NEW YORK (AP) – Gasoline prices have declined every day for a week following a similar slide in crude prices this month.
But with the national average at nearly $2.73 a gallon on Friday, pump prices are still more expensive than any day last year. They’ve ridden a 10-month rally in energy commodities that doubled oil prices to nearly $80 a barrel by the end of last year.
Crude prices have tumbled this month, pulling down gas prices with them as weekly government reports showed the country hasn’t regained its appetite for petroleum. The economy may be slowly recovering, but Americans aren’t burning more fuel than they did last year.
The Energy Information Administration said Thursday that the nation’s gasoline supply ballooned by 3.9 million barrels last week as demand fell for the fourth straight week.
U.S. refineries, which have struggled to pass along the higher crude costs to motorists, continue to produce less gasoline. They’ve cut operations to the lowest levels on record, at a time not related to a hurricane, according to analyst Stephen Schork. Refineries generally curtail operations when those big storms hit to minimize damage.
Oil prices fell again Friday as Wall Street stumbled for a third straight day and the dollar strengthened – making crude contracts tougher to buy with foreign currency.
Benchmark crude for March delivery lost 66 cents to $75.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for March delivery fell 89 cents to $73.69 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Retail gas prices lost a penny overnight to a new national average of $2.727, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular unleaded is still 14.3 cents more expensive than it was a month ago, and it’s 87.7 cents more expensive than the same time last year.
In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil fell 1.92 cents to $1.9664 a gallon, while gasoline gave up less than a penny to $1.9751 a gallon. Natural gas futures added 19.2 cents, more than 3 percent, to $5.807 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Associated Press writers Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.