July 4 gas prices dip but higher than 2012

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Drivers fueling up for July 4 weekend trips will find gasoline prices higher than a year ago from more expensive crude oil but maybe a few cents cheaper than they are now amid strong supplies and weak demand.

Regular gas averaged $3.792 a gallon on Long Island Wednesday morning, the AAA said -- down slightly from a month earlier, but 15.2 cents higher than a year earlier.

Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks and Opinions, a trading and investment newsletter, blames the year-over-year cost increase on higher crude oil prices amid concern about disruption of Middle East supplies from the civil war in Syria.

European benchmark Brent crude, used to produce much of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast, was trading at about $93 a barrel at this time last year. It closed Wednesday at $101.66. U.S. benchmark crude cost about $79 a barrel a year ago and settled Wednesday at $95.50.

Larry says any decrease in pump prices in coming weeks is likely to be small. "Right now, oil prices in general are pretty steady," he said.

New federal government figures Wednesday showed inventories of gasoline nationally last week at the highest level for this time of year since 1992.

Citing the strong supplies, Andy Lipow, president of Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates LLC, said he expects prices at the pump to drop by five to seven cents a gallon by July 4.

The higher stocks result from higher output by U.S. refineries as they complete seasonal maintenance and repairs, plus an increase in imports of gasoline, Lipow said. The government also said that demand nationally for the last four weeks has been running three tenths of a percent below a year ago for the past month.

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