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Gas prices ease, but state trails

Times Staff Writer

California motorists received more relief at the pump over the last week, but they also continued to get much less satisfaction than their counterparts around the nation, Energy Department statistics showed Monday.

The price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline fell 4.5 cents to $2.538 in California, according to the weekly survey of filling stations by the Energy Department. That compared with a national price drop of 6.4 cents to $2.165 a gallon.

The West Coast remained the only region in the U.S. where drivers were still paying more for gasoline than they did during the same week in 2006, a difference of 12.3 cents. By contrast, Americans in the rest of the country were paying an average of 17.1 cents less than they did last year.

On the Los Angeles spot market, where fuel is traded for near-term delivery, gasoline was selling for about $1.51 a gallon, according to Oil Price Information Service, which tracks petroleum markets. Such spot-market prices, which don’t reflect taxes and other costs, are indicators of where retail prices are headed.

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“The distance between the cost of gasoline on bulk markets and the price at the pump is very, very large in California, and that distance should narrow over the next few weeks,” said Tom Kloza, chief analyst for Oil Price Information Service.

In New York futures trading, crude oil for February delivery was off 86 cents to $51.13 a barrel, despite Iran’s announcement Monday that it was conducting military maneuvers and missile tests.

“When the market is correcting, you need something concrete to stop it. Missiles tests are not concrete,” said Sarah Emerson, director of petroleum market analysis for Energy Security Analysis Inc., a research and consulting company. “The low end of the range might be $45 to $55 a barrel. The market is still looking for its next resting place.”

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ron.white@latimes.com


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