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Commodities Corner: Retail gasoline prices stand just pennies below their highest Thanksgiving price on record: report

U.S. drivers are paying over 60% more for a gallon of regular gasoline than a year ago, but they’ll likely narrowly escape having to pay the highest Thanksgiving price on record, says GasBuddy.

Late Thursday afternoon, the average price for regular gasoline was at $3.415 a gallon, up $1.30 from a year ago, according to fuel savings platform GasBuddy. Prices are also nine cents a gallon higher than a month ago, but unchanged from a week ago.

So far, we’re expecting a “touch of relief as motorists hit the road for Thanksgiving,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told MarketWatch. “The national average is wobbling a bit — was down last week but is back up slightly.”

With the losses in oil this week, De Haan expects “additional relief in the week or two ahead” in gasoline prices, maybe a few cents per gallon “give or take.”

Oil futures are poised to post a loss this week, pressured by talk of the potential release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Meanwhile, when asked at a press briefing Thursday about discussions with other countries regarding a joint release of oil reserves, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said members of the Biden administration’s national security team has had discussions with a range of countries, including China, about the need to meet supply demands.

On Thursday, U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude
CLZ21,
+0.65%

CL.1,
+0.65%

settled at $79.01 a barrel, up 0.8% for the session, after losing about 3% to settle at $78.36 on Wednesday, the lowest front-month contract finish since Oct. 7, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Despite the recent decline for oil, gasoline prices will still be near the highest they’ve ever been on Thanksgiving, based on data going back to the year 2000, said De Haan.

Gasoline prices are just below the national average of $3.44 a gallon seen on Thanksgiving in 2012, which marks the record high for that holiday.

With expected relief in oil prices, “we shouldn’t hit a new record” in gasoline, he said. “In recent years, prices have been quite a bit more affordable.”

Gasoline prices at Thanksgiving last year averaged just $2.11, and GasBuddy predicts this year’s Thanksgiving price will be at $3.35.

GasBuddy

“With talk of an SPR release ongoing, we could see a bit more relief as we enter December, but that could change with so many headlines that could drive oil as of late,” De Haan said. San Francisco, a city which has seen the highest average price in the United States on record, and California “continue to push higher, but that should revert to decreases sometime soon.”

Regular gasoline prices in California averaged $4.686 a gallon Thursday, with San Francisco’s average price at $4.863, GasBuddy data show.

Thanks, in part, to the high prices for gasoline, however, Americans have plans to travel less for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year than last year, according to a recent survey conducted by GasBuddy. The survey revealed that 32% of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving weekend, down from 35% last year. Around 65% had planned to hit the road for the holiday in 2019.

Fifty percent of Americans said they’re driving less overall this year, and when asked what it would take to get them to drive more, 78% said lower gas prices, according to GasBuddy.

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