All that hand-wringing at the pump over rising gasoline prices may be over. For now.
Just days after consumers paid the highest average priced for Fourth of July since 2008, crude oil and wholesale prices continue to ease. Benchmark West Texas crude oil is trading off 7 cents at $103.46 a barrel Tuesday morning, beginning its eighth straight daily drop and the longest losing streak since December 2009. Brent crude oil is off 57 cents to $109.67. Like West Texas crude, it's below trading levels before insurgents captured Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city.
"These prices are a bit excessive, in my view,'' says Tom Kloza, senior energy analyst for gasbuddy.com. "I think we'll drift a bit lower - with the occasional small bounce - from now until Labor Day. After Labor Day, we should see a return of sub-$3 a gallon prices" in areas of the South, Rocky Mountains and Midwest.
Gasoline averages $3.65 a gallon nationally, down from $3.67 over the holiday weekend. A year ago, consumers were paying an average $3.47 a gallon.
Of course, a flareup of political unrest in the Mideast or a supply disrupting storm system in the Gulf of Mexico could cause prices to spike again. But typically, gas prices - now averaging $3.65 a gallon - would have peaked about six weeks ago.
Gasbuddy.com, which tracks prices in hundreds of metropolitan areas, says the recent spike in gas prices cost consumers $38.7 billion in June. That's up 36% from the $28.3 billion spent in June 2009.