Last Friday, a barrel of oil closed below $100 for the first time since February 10 when it closed on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) at $98.67. The price of a barrel of oil closed Friday at $98.49 on the NYMEX--$6.44 less than the week prior. Oil prices plummeted after U.S. payrolls increased by 115,000, when they were projected to increase by 160,000. This is the smallest gain in the last six months, according to the Labor Department. The report increased concerns of further decreases in fuel demand at a time when inventories are at their highest level in 21 years, according to the Energy Department.
The Energy Department also reported U.S. fuel demand is down 4.7 percent from last year and has caused U.S. stockpiles to increase to 375.9 million barrels. Slowed manufacturing growth in China along with the continued financial problems Europe is facing have also led to oil prices falling below $100 a barrel and retail fuel prices to dip below last year’s levels.
“Nationwide, motorists are paying 20 cents less today than they did this time last year. And, it was on May 5, 2011, the national average price for a gallon of regular retail gasoline peaked for the year at $3.98," said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman, The Auto Club Group. "Retail gas prices are likely to continue their downward trend in May which is good news for those who plan to travel for the upcoming holiday weekend.”
The national average price of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.78, 3 cents less than last week. Florida’s average of $3.71 fell 9 cents from last week, while Georgia’s average of $3.61 and Tennessee’s average price of $3.58 both decreased 7 cents from last week, respectively. At least one discounter here in the 'Boro are offering regular gas for as low as $3.47 per gallon.