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Gasoline prices fall in state, hold steady in nation

Fuel costs are likely to resume their rise in August, experts say.

July 15, 2008|Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer

California gasoline prices fell for the fourth straight week and the national average remained basically unchanged, the Energy Department said Monday, as oil drifted higher by a dime a barrel. But analysts predicted that fuel would move higher by August.

"As much as we seem to be jockeying around a little higher and a little lower, we're still at the starter's gate for another sprint, and that sprint is going to come between now and the end of August," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey.

For the present, however, the average driver in California and the rest of the nation didn't have to dig deeper into their spending money over the last week. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in California fell 3 cents to $4.520, which was 6.8 cents off the record set June 16, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of filling stations. Golden State prices were running $1.362 higher a gallon than at this time last year.

Nationally, the average dropped just a tenth of a penny to $4.113 a gallon, up $1.064 from the same week a year earlier.

Trading in crude oil futures for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange showed little direction during the day before responding slightly to a strike by Brazilian oil workers. Crude finished the day up 10 cents to $145.18 a barrel.

Again, some analysts saw little in the way of positive long-term news. President Bush's decision to lift the presidential ban on offshore drilling Monday was viewed, at best, as something that wouldn't affect oil production for eight to 10 years if projects actually got underway or, at worst, as "a little window dressing in a presidential election year," as one analyst put it.

"Oil might fall to the $130s for a barrel, but there probably won't be much more price relief than that" in the coming weeks, said that analyst, Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president for energy risk management for MF Global Ltd. in New York.

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ron.white@latimes.com

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