Holiday travelers in coming days will find gasoline prices on Long Island the lowest since mid-July, although still higher than a year ago.
Regular averaged $3.775 a gallon in Nassau and Suffolk Wednesday morning, the AAA said. That's down 5.4 cents from a week earlier and down about 39 cents from the recent peak of $4.168 on Nov. 11, when motorists waited in long lines in the shortage created by superstorm Sandy.
The new average still is 22.4 cents higher than a year earlier.
Some analysts foresee a halt in the declines. Addison Armstrong, director of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn., cites the balance of supply and demand and the rising price this week of crude oil. "I would say we're probably going to flatten out right around these levels for retail gasoline," he said.
Andy Lipow, president of Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates Llc, expects a temporary halt in the price declines because demand will surge from holiday shoppers and travelers. "Then I expect prices could start to decline more," he said, "because January and February happen to be the weakest period of the year for demand."
He noted figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Energy showed stocks of gasoline on the East Coast fell last week from the week before by about 500,000 barrels, to 49.1 million barrels. Refineries are running at high rates producing gasoline.
Last year at this time, prices had fallen through the fall so that the Long Island average for regular bottomed at $3.541 a gallon on Dec. 26.
Crude oil futures prices rose this week on signs that the federal "fiscal cliff" will be avoided with an agreement between President Barack Obama and House Republicans, Armstrong said, and on expectations of new government economic stimuli in the United States, Japan and China.
In New York trading Wednesday crude rose $1.58 to settle at $89.51 per barrel.
Heating oil, meanwhile, averaged $4.218 a gallon on Monday at full-service dealers on Long Island, the state Energy Research and Development Authority said. That's down 8.3 cents from the recent peak on Nov. 26, but almost 27 cents a gallon higher than a year earlier. -- With AP