AAA: National gas price average continues slight downward trend heading into fall

Published 8:07 pm Monday, September 9, 2019

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Gas prices continue to trend lower, with half of all states seeing pump prices drop two cents on the week. The national average to push cheaper by a penny down to $2.56. Today’s average is 11 cents less than a month ago and 28 cents cheaper than a year ago.

Kentucky’s downward trend in gas prices has been less dramatic of late. The average dropped just a penny this past week after making greater downward strides heading into the Labor Day weekend.

In its latest weekly report, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that U.S. gasoline demand saw a steady decline from 9.9 million barrels per day to 9.4 million barrels per day, a reading typical for the start of fall. In addition to the drop in demand, EIA data also shows that domestic gasoline stocks fell by 2 million barrels, mostly due to exports.

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“Gasoline demand in early September generally declines alongside stock levels as refineries prepare for the switchover to winter-blend gasoline and undergo maintenance,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public and government affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass. “These expected seasonal trends mean savings for motorists, leading the way for potentially some of the cheapest gas prices in the last quarter of the year.”

While state averages range from as expensive as $3.65 in Hawaii to as cheap as $2.16 in Mississippi, nearly all state averages are 20-55 cents cheaper than this time last year. Kentucky’s average price for regular unleaded is a full 38 cents cheaper today than one year ago at this time.

In Lexington, gas prices are at $2.38, about 16 cents higher than just a week ago and about the same level as gas prices a month ago.

Quick stats across the nation

The nation’s top 10 latest weekly changes are: Ohio (-13 cents), Illinois (-7 cents), Michigan (+4 cents), New Jersey (-4 cents), Washington, D.C. (-4 cents), Rhode Island (-4 cents), Maryland (-4 cents), Massachusetts (-3 cents), Connecticut (-3 cents) and Indiana (+3 cents).

The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets are: Mississippi ($2.16), Louisiana ($2.17), Alabama ($2.20), Arkansas ($2.23), South Carolina ($2.23), Oklahoma ($2.25), Tennessee ($2.25), Texas ($2.27), Missouri ($2.28) and Virginia ($2.29).

Central U.S. sees continued price volatility

While gas prices are 13 cents cheaper on the week in Ohio ($2.47), motorists in Michigan ($2.64) are paying nearly a nickel more compared to last Monday. Also seeing increases at the pump at the start of the work week: Indiana (+3 cents), Kansas (+1 cent) and Missouri (+1 cent). Volatility is no stranger to the Great Lakes and Central States, where gas prices can fluctuate either way despite strong gasoline stock levels and healthy demand.

For the past three weeks, gasoline stocks have hovered at the 51 million barrel mark while regional refinery utilization stabilized mostly at 100%, according to the EIA. These two factors should ultimately keep gas prices cheaper for the region for the coming weeks with the exception of typical volatility mostly in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.

Crude oil stocks, trade tensions will shape short-term price changes

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, West Texas Intermediate, a grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing, increased by 22 cents to settle at $56.52. Domestic crude prices rose last week after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that total domestic crude inventories fell by 4.8 million barrels. At 423 million barrels, stocks are approximately 21.5 million barrels higher than were they were at the end of August 2018. Higher inventory levels have helped to keep oil cheaper this year over last, but if EIA’s report this week shows that stocks continue to shrink, prices could end the week higher again. Alternatively, if ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China escalate, crude prices could fall.