Policy: Economy

Pump prices fell in Jan. as drivers stayed home

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News,Business,Economy,Energy and Environment,Gas Prices,Weather

NEW YORK (AP) — If it's any consolation, the wicked weather of January helped lower the price of gasoline.

AAA said Friday that the nationwide average for a gallon of gasoline fell 4 cents this month to $3.28. The snow, ice and frigid air that buffeted much of the country kept drivers off the road, lowering fuel demand and suppressing pump prices, said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement.

The price of other fuels rose, largely due to the weather. Natural gas, used for heat by almost half of U.S. residences, rose 17 percent for the month to $4.94 per 1,000 cubic feet. The price hit a four-year high of $5.56 per 1,000 cubic feet on Wednesday.

Heating oil futures spiked to $3.28 a gallon as the Northeast endured snowstorms and bone-chilling cold. While the gain for the month was 6.5 percent, the price soared 34 cents, or 12 percent, after Jan. 14. And increased demand for heating oil boosted the price of crude oil. Oil finished January with a small loss — 93 cents — but it rose $5.83, or 6.4 percent, after Jan. 9.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, fell 4 percent for the month.

U.S. drivers could see rising gasoline prices in the weeks ahead. Forecasts are for milder temperatures, and gas prices usually rise in February as refineries curtail production to conduct seasonal maintenance. That reduces supplies and boosts fuel prices. A year ago, the nationwide average for a gallon of gas jumped 49 cents in February to peak for the year of $3.79 on Feb. 27.

In Friday trading in New York:

— Benchmark crude oil for March delivery fell 74 cents to close at $97.49 a barrel.

— Brent crude fell $1.55 to $106.40 a barrel.

— Wholesale gasoline retreated 4 cents to $2.63 a gallon.

— Heating oil futures rose 6 cents to $3.28 a gallon.

— Natural gas futures lost 7 cents to $4.94 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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