Average gasoline price tumbles to lowest level in almost four years

Bloomberg News

The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps slid to the lowest level in almost four years, dropping 18.2 cents in the two weeks that ended Friday to $3.08 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

Prices are 28.69 cents lower than a year earlier, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo company.

The average is the lowest since Dec. 17, 2010, as oil, which makes up 64% of the pump price, has fallen 24% from this year's peak in June. And prices could continue to fall.

"The crude oil price crash has been passed through by refiners," said Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey. "Retailers will probably be pressed to pass through at the pump a few more pennies of price-cutting sometime soon."

The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $3.45 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Memphis, Tenn., where customers paid an average $2.73 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $3.33 a gallon on Long Island in New York, and $3.39 in Los Angeles.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark priced in Cushing, Okla., declined $4.81, or 5.6%, to $81.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks that ended Friday. It dipped below $80 on Oct. 16 for the first time since June 2012.

After rising as analysts speculated prices had reached a floor, West Texas Intermediate crude sank again after stockpiles climbed nationally. It fell to $80.52 on Wednesday, and ended the week down 24% from the year's high. The U.S. benchmark, which slipped into a bear market Oct. 9, may dip to $75 by the end of year, Bank of America Corp. said in a recent research note.

The "swiftness of the sell-off" attracted bargain hunters, who saw prices continue to decline, said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital, a New York hedge fund that focuses on energy.

"People came in and tried to pick the bottom, and they picked wrong," Kilduff said.

U.S. oil output was 8.95 million barrels a day the week of Oct. 10, the most since 1985. U.S. production has increased about 66% in the last five years as companies have used horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap into hydrocarbon-rich layers of underground shale rock.

Gasoline stockpiles fell 1.3 million barrels, or 0.6%, in the seven days that ended Oct. 17 to 204.4 million, Energy Information Administration data show. Gasoline futures on the Nymex fell 7.58 cents, or 3.4%, to $2.18 a gallon in the two weeks that ended Friday.

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