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Mellow summer gas could be a big boon for US consumers

Into the Futures: Low summer gasoline prices could provide boon for consumers

Even as America enters the heart of driving season, gasoline prices have not quite picked up steam, and may not do so anytime soon. And that could provide a major boon for US consumers.

Gasoline prices are about at the levels they were last year, and gasoline futures have risen only modestly, allaying concerns of a summer gas price surge. And at this point, traders don't see any signs of gas soaring higher in the near-term.

"Cars are more efficient, markets are well supplied, and the futures prices are reasonable," said Anthony Grisanti, an energy trader based at the NYMEX. "I don't see a summer surge coming."

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Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services expects only a modest rise in prices.

"Normally gas prices reach their high between May and June, and stay at a constant elevated level through the driving months," Iuorio wrote to CNBC.com. "I think this trend will probably continue. I expect gas futures to stay in a range between $2.90 and $3.00 until later in the summer when prices start to decline."

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Gas futures are only up 5 percent in 2014, joining 2013 and 2012 in defying a historical trend whereby gas climbs into driving season. In 2011, gas futures were up 27 percent year-to-date by this time of year; in 2009, 2008 and 2007 they rose 116 percent, 38 percent, and 37 percent, respectively.

This year, the rolling 26-week average gas price is down $0.06 compared to the year prior, according to Deutsche Bank.

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If gasoline prices do indeed stay muted, that could be significant for the US economy.

"Gasoline prices are actually providing a modest economic stimulus (of approximately $6 billion) according to our calculations," Deutsche Bank senior US economist Carl Riccadonna wrote in a recent note. And with overall energy and utility costs finally dropping after the harsh winter, "household spending may get a fillip in the near-term."

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg.

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