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Thursday March 23rd, 2017 6:17AM

AAA: Gas prices stabilize, still 50-cents more than last year

By AccessWDUN Staff

Gas prices are holding steady after inching up last week, according to this week's fuel report from AAA. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.31 – nearly 3 cents more than a week ago. Compared to last year, motorists are paying 50 cents more for a gallon of gasoline and $7 more for a full tank of gas.

“Last week’s price hike is pretty normal for this time of year, and there will likely be more of that to come in the next few months,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We normally see prices rise 35-75 cents between March and Memorial Day, due to maintenance season and shifts in supply and demand. However, pump prices will likely remain on the low end of that range this year, unless there is a major upswing in oil prices.”

The crude oil market remains flat with prices per barrel under $54. Despite continued production cuts from OPEC, United States oil production and rig count continues to climb, putting downward pressure on oil prices. According to oil services company Baker Hughes, U.S. drillers added seven oil rigs this week, bringing the total rig count up to 609, the most since October 2015. Traders will continue to watch how the market reacts to increased U.S. oil production.

Friday’s closing price for WTI on the NYMEX was $53.33. The weekly average price of $53.57 was nearly 50 cents less than the week before.

Market Factors

  • Crude oil inventories are 6.9 percent higher than this time last year.
  • Gasoline supplies declined last week, which would normally signal an increase at the pump, but current levels remain about a half percent higher than last year.
  • Gasoline demand rose last week, but is 6 percent lower than a year ago.
  • Fewer refineries conducted maintenance last week, as refinery capacity rose 4 percent. When refinery utilization rates are low, that signals a lower capacity for producing gasoline.

Georgia gas prices averaged $2.21 on Sunday – fractions of a cent more than a week ago and 48 cents more than last year.

  • The most expensive metro markets in the state are Atlanta ($2.24), Savannah ($2.22), and Athens ($2.19).
  • The least expensive metro markets in the state are Augusta/Aiken ($2.12), Macon ($2.13), and Albany ($2.13).

 

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