U.S. drivers are paying less than $2.50 a gallon at the pump for the first time in more than five years.
Retail gasoline averaged $2.477 a gallon, data from the Heathrow, Florida-based motoring group AAA showed. That’s down from this year’s peak of $3.696 in April and the first time it has dipped below $2.50 since October 2009. By New Year’s Day, the fuel may be selling for $2.25 to $2.40, the lowest seasonally since 2008, AAA said by e-mail.
Tumbling crude prices and rising fuel output have sent gasoline lower, leaving more money in the pockets of consumers. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries declined to reduce its output target at a meeting last month, letting prices drop to a level that may slow U.S. output that’s surged to the most in more than three decades. U.S. refineries operated at the highest level in more than nine years earlier this month.
“Every day seems to bring a bigger gift for drivers at the gas pump,” Michael Green, an AAA spokesman in Washington, said by e-mail. “Gas prices have fallen 84 days in a row for a total of 87 cents per gallon, which is the second-longest consecutive streak on record.”
U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude futures touched $53.60 a barrel on Dec. 16, the lowest level since May 2009. WTI was at $55.64, up $1.53, or 2.83 percent, at midmorning Friday. Brent, the international benchmark, dropped to $58.50 on Dec. 16, also the least since May 2009. Brent was at $60.31, up $1.04, or 1.75 percent.
A record 98.6 million Americans will cash in on cheap fuel by traveling 50 miles or more for the holiday season, according to AAA forecasts. About 89.5 million of them, or 91 percent, will drive and 5.7 million will fly.
The average U.S. household will save about $550 on gasoline expenses next year, with average fuel spending on track to fall to the lowest level in 11 years, the Energy Information Administration said Dec. 16.
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