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“The advance in [pump] prices stalled before the $4-per-gallon level,” which is important, he said, because $4 is a flash point not only for consumers wary of high prices but also for traders who were increasingly concerned about “political intervention” in the market.

The White House and allies in Europe were considering anti-speculation measures like those announced Tuesday and a release of strategic petroleum reserves to curb the rise in crude oil prices.

The recent decline in gas prices, Mr. Horsnell said, “is likely to draw a lot of the sting and political interest out of oil prices,” and enable the market to “sidle a bit further away from the center of the political radar” where the glare of publicity had grown increasingly uncomfortable for investors and traders.

Whether the stabilization in prices and anti-speculation measures will take the heat off Mr. Obama from Republicans remained in doubt, however, as House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio vowed to keep bringing up legislation to allow more drilling than the administration has allowed on public lands.

Another factor adding to prices in the Washington area and the Northeast this spring were fears that a major refinery in Philadelphia would shut this summer after the closure of several smaller refineries in the area last year.

Sunoco announced that it would close the refinery, which produces nearly one-quarter of the oil products consumed in the Northeast, if it didn’t find a buyer by July 1 - a development that threatened to create major disruptions in supply and drive up prices even further in the region.

But industry reports last week said at least four potential buyers have emerged for the big Philadelphia refinery, as well as for smaller ones that have been shuttered.

“The entire dynamic of the U.S. East Coast markets may be about to change,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service.