U.S. gas prices steady as competing factors tug on price of oil

Aug. 7 (UPI) — With competing factors tugging on the price of oil, and subsequently retail gas prices, analysts were mixed on direction for U.S. consumers.

Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price of $2.86 for a gallon of regular unleaded for Tuesday, relatively unchanged over the past month.

Jeanette Casselano, a spokeswoman for AAA, said there’s been strong demand for gasoline competing against a decline in supplies that could point to higher prices in the near future.

“We are likely going to see an end of summer pump price rally as inventories continue to tighten, especially on the East Coast,” she said in a statement.

But Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said in a separate statement that, on balance, gas prices should stay relatively stable.

“With several bullish and bearish factors weighing on oil prices, you may see gas prices stuck in some sort of late summer blues before motorists see more sizable relief coming after Labor Day,” he said.

Oil prices have been pulled lower by issues like trade tensions between the United States and China, but then pulled back up by factors like sanctions on Iran.

Regardless of the sentiment, gas prices are considerably higher than they were at this point last year. The average retail price for a gallon of gas on this date in 2017 was $2.35.

By region, the West Coast is the most expensive market, though Arizona is setting the lowest bar at $2.91 per gallon. California, meanwhile, has a state average price of $3.62 per gallon.

U.S. government data show gasoline inventories are about 10 percent lower than at this point last year, suggesting the region could be on pace for higher gas prices.

The Great Lakes region is the most volatile market in the country. At $2.90 per gallon, gas prices in Michigan dropped almost 3 percent from last week, meaning the state gave up its claim as the state with the highest regional average price to Illinois, with $2.94 per gallon.

Federal data show gasoline inventories in the region are at their lowest point of the year, but relatively the same as this point last year.

For the year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects a national average of $2.76 per gallon and $2.77 per gallon for next year.

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