Gasoline prices fall for first time in five weeks

Gasoline prices just fell for the first time in the past five weeks.

The national average for regular gas declined 2 cents the past week to $2.23 a gallon, while premium gas was down 1 cent to $2.74 and diesel fuel rose by a penny to $2.42, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That ended a streak of five weeks in which pump prices rose or were unchanged.

In the Southeast, where Hurricane Matthew had caused widespread flooding and power outages, prices receded as the supply of gas returned to normal levels and recovery efforts picked up steam. Average prices for regular fell by 1 to 4 cents a gallon in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Florida was an exception as regular went up 2 cents for a statewide average of $2.25.

Motorists in the Great Lakes area, where prices tend to be more volatile, experienced bigger price breaks. Prices fell 8 cents in Illinois, 11 cents in Michigan, 13 cents in Ohio and 14 cents in Indiana. Over the past two weeks, the average price of regular has dropped 17 cents in Michigan to $2.18 and 22 cents in Indiana to $2.08.

AAA said in a statement that the price declines can "likely be attributed to BP's Whiting, Ind., refinery completing unplanned maintenance on its largest crude distillation unit, which has helped to ease supply constraints in the region."

Gas prices rose, albeit slowly, during much of September and the first half of October, and the current average of $2.23 a gallon is 2 cents higher than a month ago and 2 cents lower than a year ago. Prior to the Labor Day weekend, regular was 24 cents cheaper than at the same time in 2015.

Gas prices fell steadily after Labor Day last year and continued to decline into early 2016, and in 2014 prices went on a steep slide after Labor Day. That hasn't happened this year because of unscheduled maintenance at refineries, a recent pipeline leak in Alabama, weather-related problems and the rising price of oil.

U.S. oil prices rose to $51.60 a barrel on Wednesday — the highest since June 27 — before falling back below $51. Oil has increased because members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have said they will consider a production cut when they meet in November.

GasBuddy.com analyst Patrick DeHaan said in a blog post: "Any failure to cut oil production at its November meeting will likely cause oil prices to plummet, while a firm agreement to tighten production could cause gasoline and oil prices to rise.

Missouri and New Jersey were tied for the lowest statewide average for regular unleaded gas on Thursday, at $2.03 a gallon, according to AAA.

Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas were next lowest at $2.04. Hawaii had the most expensive gas at $2.88 for regular, followed by California, $2.78, and Washington, $2.73. Other states averaging more than $2.50 were Alaska, $2.64; Oregon, $2.55; and Nevada, $2.51.


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