Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Gasoline prices see rare decline

DALLAS — The average gasoline pump price fell last month — the first time that has happened during the month of March in 10 years, said AAA, the nation's largest motoring organization.

The national average today is $3.63 a gallon, compared with $3.92 a year earlier, AAA said. Prices fell 15 cents in March, and the average should remain cheaper than last spring's, AAA said.

In the Tampa Bay area, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Monday was $3.517, down nearly 37 cents a gallon from last April 1.

Gasoline prices have been held in check as a jump in domestic oil output has reduced crude futures prices in New York by 6.4 percent from a year ago.

"It is very unusual for gas prices to decline in early spring like we have seen this year," Avery Ash, a spokesman for AAA in Washington, said in a statement. "An increase in refinery production and lower oil prices in early March have combined to provide rare falling prices for motorists."

Prices rose 34 cents in the first quarter, less than the 65-cent increase in the same quarter a year earlier, AAA said. The average cost of gasoline has fallen 29 out of 33 days since reaching $3.79 a gallon on Feb. 27. In 2012, prices peaked at $3.94 a gallon on April 5 and April 6.

"We saw the preseason rally early this year in January and February as refiners went down for seasonal and inventories drew," said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

In other news, two economic reports were released in Washington on Monday, revealing mixed results.

Spending on U.S. construction projects rebounded in February, helped by a surge in home construction, which rose to the highest level in more than four years.

Construction spending rose 1.2 percent overall in February compared with January, when construction had dropped 2.1 percent, the Commerce Department reported.

The advance was led by a 2.2 percent rise in private residential construction, which climbed to an annual rate of $303.4 billion, the best showing since November 2008. Private nonresidential construction was up 0.4 percent, while public construction rose 0.9 percent.

Construction spending is expected to keep growing this year, fueled by more home building and broader improvement in the economy.

Meanwhile, an Institute for Supply Management survey showed that U.S. manufacturing activity expanded more slowly in March than in February, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders. But factories hired at the fastest pace in nine months, an encouraging sign ahead of Friday's report on March employment.

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