Motorists are filling their tanks with gasoline that's cheaper than just a month ago, a trend that's likely to continue for the rest of the summer.
The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline was $2.722 Monday, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That's about 0.7 cent less than it was a month ago but around 25 cents higher than a year ago.
The highest pump prices are in the West, where they average from $2.847 a gallon to $3.499. Travelers across Texas and much of the Midwest are seeing some of the lowest prices, averaging from $2.468 a gallon to $2.577 a gallon.
The Energy Department releases its weekly report on pump prices around the country Monday afternoon.
Gasoline demand has been fairly weak for the traditionally busy summer driving season, as Americans hold on to their cash in the uncertain economy. Oil and gas supplies remain ample, which should translate into declining pump prices, said PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn.
"My best guess is that prices will continue to go down, and if we can get the price of crude oil to break a little bit, they could fall precipitously," he said.
Oil prices rose 72 cents to $76.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as investors kept an eye on potential tropical storms in the Atlantic and improving stock markets. Oil traders have looked to stocks for signs the economy is getting better and, with it, demand for oil and gas.
Halliburton Co. reported stronger second-quarter results, although it faces costs associated with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Investors were upbeat about the potential growth in land-based oil services and pushed Halliburton shares up 6.5 percent in afternoon trading. BP shares fell by about 6 percent on worries the capped well at the bottom of the Gulf could be leaking oil.
The economic news Monday was mixed again. The National Association of Home Builders said its seasonally adjusted housing market index fell to 14 in July, the lowest level since March 2009.
Builders report a sharp drop in the number of buyers looking for new homes since federal tax credits expired April 30.
More businesses hired workers and fewer cut jobs in the second quarter but the pace of growth has slowed, according to a survey from the National Association for Business Economics.
Benchmark crude rose 53 cents to settle at $76.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In other Nymex trading heating oil rose 0.57 cent to settle at $2.0170 a gallon, gasoline added 1.04 cents to settle at $2.0772 a gallon and natural gas lost 0.9 cent to settle at $4.510 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Brent crude was up 25 cents to settle at $75.62 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.
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