- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From combined dispatches

Retail gasoline prices dipped for a 17th week since July 4, falling below $2 a gallon in a number of states and approaching $1.50 at some service stations. The price of crude fell again too, hitting a 20-month low.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the national average now sits at $2.22 a gallon, exactly even with the Maryland statewide average, while the D.C. metropolitan area is at $2.29. Virginia’s statewide average is below all three at $2.08 a gallon. The price per gallon has dropped 2-4 cents a day for the last 50 days.

Baltimore and Richmond are both below their state’s average at $2.13 and $1.99 respectively. Statewide averages for Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma all sit below $2 a gallon.

While consumers, worried about a weak job market and slumping investments, are grateful for the price relief, economic reports increasingly suggest they’re hanging onto whatever savings they see at the pump.

Filling up her 2008 Toyota Highlander for $1.89 a gallon in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, dental hygienist Shelly Dalamaggas said even when gasoline was $4 just a few months ago, there was little choice but to pay and cut spending elsewhere.

“When you have to go to work, you have to go work,” said Mrs. Dalamaggas, who has two children, ages 9 and 13. “When you have to take your kids places, you have to take them places. You do what you have to do to cut back in other places.”

Retail gasoline prices are being dragged down by the falling price of crude, which now costs 60 percent less per barrel than it did in mid-July. The average price for regular unleaded gasoline has fallen nearly 32 percent in the last month.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery fell $3.08 to settle at $59.33 a barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest closing price since March 2007. Prices had dipped a dollar below that earlier in the day.

Sharp swings in crude prices are taking place almost daily on the New York trading floor.

While the Nymex contract is now trading near first-half 2007 prices, the difference then between daily highs and lows was around $1.50 a barrel. Now, the average daily range is around $5.50 a barrel, with recent daily peaks at $9.50, said analyst Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzerland.

The overall trend for oil and gasoline prices, at least for now, is down.

Jeff Canning contributed to this report.

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