Motorists are still getting a break at the pump, as gasoline pump prices continued their monthlong slide on Tuesday, dropping to a new low for 2010.
Retail gasoline prices hit a nationwide average of $2.61 per gallon and fell below $2.40 in parts of the country; including Ohio, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. The Energy Information Administration will release its survey of nationwide gasoline prices later Tuesday.
Prices are now 16 cents below the Jan. 15 peak, but still 64.5 cents above year-ago levels. Motorists spend about $953 million per day on fuel, down from about $1 billion per day last month, according to OPIS' Tom Kloza. The typical motorist uses about 50 gallons of fuel per month, which would cost about $130 at current prices.
Prices have been particularly cheap in the Midwest where weak consumption coupled with less expensive winter gasoline blends pushed wholesale prices to a range of $1.75 to $1.85 per gallon last week, Kloza said.
Wholesale gasoline prices jumped 5 to 7 cents per gallon Tuesday. Prices could move higher as the spring driving season approaches.
Oil prices jumped on Tuesday as the dollar weakened and stock markets climbed on upbeat economic news. The Empire State manufacturing index rose to 24.91 this month, compared with a forecast of 18, according to economists polled by Thomson Reuters. Reports on housing starts, jobless claims and inflation are due out later this week.
Benchmark crude for March delivery rose $2.87 to $77 a barrel on the Nymex. With markets closed Monday because of the holiday, the contract last settled on Friday, falling $1.15 to $74.13.
Natural gas prices fell, even as another winter storm dumped as much as a foot of snow on the Midwest and the forecast called for cold temperatures for much of the nation for the rest of the month.
Because crude is traded in dollars, it becomes more expensive when the dollar falls and allows investors holding other currencies like the euro to get more oil for less. Oil has traded between $69 and $84 a barrel for the last few months.
In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil rose 7.57 cents at $1.9946 a gallon, and gasoline climbed 7.46 cents to $2.0041 a gallon. Natural gas lost 9.7 cents at $5.371 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was up $3.20 at $75.71 on the ICE futures exchange.
Associated Press writers Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.