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Gas Prices See Cheapest April in Three Years: AAA

Javier E. David | Special to CNBC.com
Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 | 2:03 PM ET
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U.S. drivers paid the least for gas in April than they have in at least three years, the AAA said on Tuesday, bringing hopes of relief at the pump just in time for the summer driving season.

The AAA said national gas prices averaged $3.55 per gallon, their least expensive in April since 2010. Over the course of the month, retail gasoline shed nearly 3 percent, or 13 cents per gallon—its largest percentage decline for the month in a decade, the agency said.

"Gas prices have fallen faster and earlier than ever before for this time of year, and it is saving motorists millions of dollars per day in lower fuel costs," said Avery Ash, a spokesman for the AAA.

Market watchers cite a combination of factors behind the move. Primarily, sliding crude oil prices in world markets, and a lack of major refinery outages that normally lead to fuel shortages and drive up prices, have helped to contain prices.

In particular, the steep drop in Brent crude—which has plunged from over $116 per barrel in February to under $103 on Tuesday—has trickled down to the pumps.

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Concerns about weak global growth have also driven down energy prices across the world, as economists fret that the hunger for oil in the United States and China—the world's two largest energy consumers—will be less voracious than usual.

"The improvement in retail gasoline prices is being driven partly by decline in crude and significant decline in Brent," said Richard Hastings, a macro strategist at Global Hunter Securities. In addition, he said, there have been little disruptions to oil refineries this spring.

Underscoring concerns about demand, the spread between the price of Brent oil and West Texas Intermediate has fallen below $10, which also supports domestic oil refiners that deal in cheaper crude.

Still, Hastings put some context around the drop in gas prices. "The household sector continues to feel some pressure anywhere north of $2.85," he said. "The current price (is) averaging about $3.50 a gallon, so there's still some pressure," he said.

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