Gas prices drop for 7 straight days

Gasoline prices have declined every day for a week following a similar slide in crude prices this month.

But with the national average at nearly $2.73 a gallon on Friday, pump prices are still more expensive than any day last year. They’ve ridden a 10-month rally in energy commodities that doubled oil prices to nearly $80 a barrel by the end of last year.

Experts say they still expect gas prices to reach $3 a gallon sometime this spring, though it may take longer than originally expected.

Crude prices have tumbled this month, pulling down gas prices with them as weekly government reports showed the country hasn’t regained its appetite for petroleum. The economy may be slowly recovering, but Americans aren’t burning more fuel than they did last year.

“Demand has been weak all year,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates. “Everyone was expecting China to boost its demand for oil, but even China is starting to slow down its overheated economy.”

The Energy Information Administration said Thursday that the nation’s gasoline supply ballooned 3.9 million barrels last week as demand fell for the fourth straight week.

U.S. refineries, which have struggled to pass along the higher crude costs to motorists, have responded by drastically slowing down operations. Last week they cut refining to the lowest levels on record, excluding periods when hurricanes forced refineries to shut down in the Gulf of Mexico, according to analyst Stephen Schork.

Oil prices fell again Friday as Wall Street stumbled for a third straight day.

Benchmark crude for March delivery lost $1.23 at $74.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for March delivery fell $1.49 to $73.09 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Retail gas prices lost a penny overnight to a national average of $2.727, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular unleaded is still 14.3 cents more expensive than it was a month ago, and it’s 87.7 cents more expensive than the same time last year.

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