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Gasoline prices may have finally peaked for now

April 09, 2012|By Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer
  • Gasoline drips from a nozzle at a service station in Lake Oswego, Ore., where prices dropped overnight.
Gasoline drips from a nozzle at a service station in Lake Oswego, Ore., where… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)

The painful rise of gasoline prices across the U.S. may have finally reached its end, for now. But analysts said more time is needed to determine whether this is a peak or just a pause.

There were some encouraging signs. Overnight, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline saw an all-too-rare decline of 0.2 cents to $3.927, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. The AAA uses prices compiled from more than 100,000 retail outlets by the Oil Price Information Service and by Wright Express.

In the 23 states with averages of $3.90 or above for a gallon of regular gasoline, 22 saw declines since Sunday. The average rose in Pennsylvania, the state that has been hardest hit by refinery closures and tightening supplies.

Two of those 23 states--Michigan and Indiana--have dropped below $4 a gallon since last week, reducing the number of states above $4 to eight. In California, the state where prices first began to drop, the average fell to $4.264 a gallon, off 4.3 cents since last week.

But the uncertainty over whether prices have peaked comes from the fact that 15 of the 23 states with the most expensive gasoline are still higher than they were at this time last week. Still, there was some guarded optimism among analysts.

"Gasoline prices in the hardest-hit areas have finally shown signs of relief with prices falling now in Chicago as they have for a few weeks in California," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. "We may see an earlier peak than we have in prior years."

GasBuddy operates losangelesgasprices.com and more than 250 similar websites that track gasoline prices at more than 140,000 service stations in the United States and Canada.

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