Motorists planning a late-summer getaway should find gasoline prices little-changed through August.
The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $2.774 yesterday, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That’s about 3.9 cents higher than a week ago and 13.1 cents higher than a year ago.
An oil price rally caused the week-over-week increase, but prices aren’t likely to rise much more because supplies are still ample and demand hasn’t improved much, said Fred Rozell, OPIS retail pricing director.
“We’re still in that funky period where there’s storm concerns, so any time there is a hurricane fear you may see prices jump up,” he said. By the fall when heavy summer driving wanes, prices should drop, he added.
In a research report, Cameron Hanover energy research agency said gasoline supplies are about 21.6 percent higher than they were two years ago, while gasoline reserves are about 6.6 percent higher.
It’s an indication that oil traders are basing their purchases and sales more on technical factors than basic facts about the market. “If this market ever does return to fundamentals, we could be in for a very steep decline in prices,” the agency said.
Oil prices matched an increase in U.S. stock markets as traders and investors waited to see if the Federal Reserve plans to launch new economic stimulus programs after its meeting today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 43 points in midday trading yesterday. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were slightly higher.
Benchmark crude for September delivery rose 53 cents to $81.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has stayed above $80 a barrel for six straight sessions.
Oil traders have been closely watching the stock markets to gauge consumer confidence in the economy, which Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently characterized as “unusually uncertain.”
In other Nymex trading in September contracts, heating oil rose 1.03 cents to $2.1575 a gallon, gasoline gained 0.70 cent at $2.1200 a gallon and natural gas fell 13.9 cents to $4.328 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude added 67 cents at $80.83 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.