US gasoline falls in Lundberg survey


HOUSTON — The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps dropped 5.89 cents to $3.5206 in the past two weeks, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the period ended Friday, Aug. 8 and is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company. Prices are 7.79 cents lower than a year ago, the survey showed.

The average, which is the lowest price since March 7, may fall further, but by a smaller amount, and it might not decline at all, according to Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey.

“The most powerful factor in the price of gasoline at the pump and at wholesale is crude oil,” Lundberg said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “The prospect of a deeper oil price plunge seems diminished.”

The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $3.95 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Jackson, Miss., where customers paid $3.19 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $3.75 a gallon on Long Island, N.Y., and $3.84 in Los Angeles.

West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), the U.S. benchmark priced in Cushing, Okla., fell $4.44, or 4.3 percent, to $97.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks to Friday, Aug. 8. Crude prices make up 67 percent of the retail cost of gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

CVR Energy shut its Coffeyville, Kan., refinery for four weeks after a July 29 fire. The 115,000 barrel-a-day plant is one of the biggest users of crude from Cushing, so it has a disproportionate impact on WTI prices.

Crude inventories in Cushing rose for the first time in four weeks during the week of Aug. 1, according to the EIA. Stockpiles nationwide fell for the sixth straight week, dropping 1.76 million barrels to 365.6 million.

Total input at refineries was 16.56 million barrels a day in the week ended Aug. 1, the highest level for late July in EIA records dating back to 1989.

Plants are taking advantage of the U.S. shale boom, which has raised oil production 64 percent in the past five years. The increased output has pushed the settlement price of U.S. benchmark WTI futures below European Brent every day since Aug. 17, 2010.

Gasoline futures on the Nymex slipped 11.16 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $2.7537 a gallon in the two weeks ended Friday, Aug. 8.

Gasoline stockpiles decreased 4.39 million barrels to 213.8 million, EIA data show. Demand over the four weeks ended Aug. 1 was 9.054 million barrels a day, 0.3 percent above a year earlier.