Drivers are finding lower gas pump prices now that the July Fourth weekend is over and prices are likely to keep sliding.
The national average for retail gasoline prices was $2.724 a gallon, 2.6 cents less than it was on Friday as the holiday weekend began, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. The pump price is 11.3 cents more than a year ago but about the same as a month ago.
Predictions of a national average of $3 a gallon faded weeks ago because supplies remain above a five-year average and demand is tepid as consumers worry about jobs and the strength of the economic recovery.
Analysts think gasoline prices will bounce a bit between now and Labor Day but will not jump significantly.
"I think right now, we've probably seen the peak for the summer. We're probably going to start heading back down again," PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn said.
Oil prices rose Tuesday after six straight days of decline as stocks rose and storms delayed oil skimming operations for the big spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained about 135 points in midday trading, recouping some losses incurred before the long holiday weekend. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were higher on Tuesday as well.
In addition, the dollar weakened. A weaker dollar makes oil and other commodities, which are priced in dollars, more appealing to foreign investors.
Benchmark crude for August delivery rose $1.24 to $73.38 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Some analysts are slashing oil price projections despite stronger crude demand in emerging economies. Barclays cut its forecast for the average oil price in the fourth quarter to $87 a barrel from a previous estimate of $92 and lowered its prediction for 2011 to $92 from $97.
Others are more optimistic.
"For the moment, despite the growth jitters, it seems to us that both the U.S. and the global recovery will remain intact, and although growth seems to have clearly downshifted a gear or two, we are not looking for a double-dip," MF Global analyst Edward Meir said. He added that he would be surprised if oil prices stayed below $70 for a considerable period.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 3.90 cents to $1.9545 a gallon, natural gas added 17.2 cents at $4.859 per 1,000 cubic feet and gasoline gained 3.86 cents to $2.0163 a gallon.
In London, Brent crude rose $1.34 to $72.81 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
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