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."
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."
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.
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."