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Average U.S. gasoline prices may have peaked

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline on Monday slipped two-tenths of a penny to $3.927 since Sunday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. A separate weekly survey by the Energy Department yielded similar results.

April 10, 2012|By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times

The painful rise of gasoline prices across the U.S. may have reached its end, according to two national surveys.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline on Monday slipped two-tenths of a penny to $3.927 since Sunday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, which uses prices compiled from more than 100,000 retail outlets by the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

Prices fell in all but one of the 23 states with per-gallon averages of $3.90 or above, according to AAA. Two of those 23 states — Michigan and Indiana — saw prices drop below $4 a gallon, 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.

A separate weekly survey by the Energy Department yielded similar results, with a 0.2-cent decline in the national average to $3.939 for a gallon of regular. California drivers got a 4.2-cent price break, to an average of $4.28 a gallon.

"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, which tracks gasoline prices.

Independent fuel price analyst Bob van der Valk said that if the nation can get through the summer months without major hurricane damage and without a new military conflict in the Middle East, "we should see the average price for gasoline in the U.S. drop back down to under $3 per gallon."

The West and East coasts continued to have the most expensive gasoline in the 48 contiguous states, the Energy Department said, with averages of $4.203 and $3.949 a gallon, respectively. The Energy Department said that was because both coasts were more dependent on expensive foreign crude and unable to benefit from oil out of new U.S. production areas, such as the Bakken formation in the north central states.

Bakken crude has been selling for much less than the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, but construction hasn't begun on planned pipelines that could bring that cheap oil to more of the nation.

West Texas Intermediate fell 85 cents to close at $102.46 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent North Sea crude, used to price U.S. oil imports, fell $2.13 to $121.30 per barrel.

ron.white@latimes.com

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