Gas princes continued to rise for much of last month and into the past week, but considerable relief at the pump could be on its way.
The nation’s average price for a gallon of unleaded gas shot up to $3.42 by Friday but showed signs of stabilizing for the time being as the price of oil dipped to under $80 a barrel near the end of last week.
“That’s really the only things that’s paving the way for what’s expected over the next week, maybe two,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for Gas Buddy. “The decline is likely to show up, but nothing’s to stop oil from suddenly tomorrow going up four or five dollars a barrel and offsetting some of that.”
Since Oct. 28, the following 10 states have seen the largest increases in their averages: Ohio (+10 cents), Arizona (+7 cents), Indiana (+5 cents), New Mexico (+4 cents), Illinois (+4 cents), California (+4 cents), Minnesota (+3 cents), Hawaii (+3 cents), Maine (+3 cents) and West Virginia (+2 cents), according to AAA.
The average price of gas in Ohio was $3.31 by Friday, up from $3.18 a week ago and $3.12 a month ago, according to AAA. In Dayton, the average at week’s end was $3.32, up from $3.12 a week before and $3.11 a month before. Springfield’s average on Friday was $3.30, while a week before it was $3.06 and a month before it was $3.12.
De Haan said the national average could shed 10 to 15 cents a gallon over the next couple of weeks so long as oil doesn’t do an about face. That, he said, would be a decline to $3.25 or so a gallon with more $2.99s popping up again in area of Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and South Carolina.
The average price of gas in Ohio isn’t likely to drop that low, De Haan said. That’s because the state’s prices follow a price-cycling pattern where stations ignore minor fluctuations in the market on a daily basis. Instead, most stations undercut each other a penny or two each day until they run out of margin, he said.
“That is, until they’re no longer making any money and then a retailer will raise their price 25 to 40 cents a gallon to pass along any price difference and to restore their margin to maybe 15 to 20 cents a gallon,” De Haan said. “We actually just saw that take place in Ohio” in the middle of last week.
De Haan said for consumers, “it’s a lot to grasp” the price of oil falling but the price of gas spiking. But as prices heat up, so does the level of competition, which will see gas stations start to undercut each other and erode the price per gallon “fairly quickly,” he said.
Ohio consumers shouldn’t expect gas to drop below $3 anytime soon, “but it could get close,” De Haan said.
“You’ll certainly see stations in pockets that are under $3 a gallon ... but the average probably won’t get there, though it may get between 5 or 10 cents,” he said.
Across the nation, there are still more stations under $3 a gallon than over $4.75 a gallon, he said. A little more than 5% of stations nationwide sold gas for less than $3 a gallon and about 2.5% of station sold gas for more than $4.75 a gallon.
AAA predicted that elevated crude prices likely will keep pushing up gas prices as long as oil prices are above $80 per barrel. Oil prices shot up to a high of $81.80 on Friday before declining slightly to close at $81.17.
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