Going Down

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Going Down

WASHINGTON -- Consumers finally got a break at the pump as gasoline prices fell for the first time in nine weeks, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

The national pump price dropped 0.9 cents a gallon over the last week to $1.404, down 17 cents from a year ago, according to a survey of more than 800 convenience stores by the department's Energy Information Administration. The drop in gasoline prices coincided with a sharp decline in crude oil prices last week after the removal of the controversial president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, the world's fourth largest exporter, Reuters reported.

However, Chavez resumed power over the weekend, pushing up the price of oil on Monday by $1.10 a barrel, or 4.7 percent. The cost of oil accounts for about 40 percent of the price of a gallon of gasoline.

The national price for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, sold at about one-third of the gas stations in major markets, was up 0.2 cents to $1.48 a gallon, EIA said. Regular unleaded gasoline was most expensive on the West Coast, where the average price was up 0.1 cents a gallon to $1.54.

Consumers in the Gulf Coast had the cheapest fuel, with the average price in that region up 0.7 cents to $1.345 a gallon. San Francisco kept the top spot among major cities in fuel costs, although gasoline was down half a penny to $1.67 a gallon. The best bargain was found in Denver, where gasoline was up 0.1 cents to $1.36 a gallon.

The report also showed gasoline prices down 0.1 cents in Los Angeles to $1.58, down 4.2 cents in Chicago to $1.53, up 3.2 cents in New York City to $1.44 and up 1.6 cents in Houston to $1.37.

EIA has forecast record gasoline demand and an average nationwide motor fuel price of $1.46 per gallon this summer, down 8 cents from last year. The weekly average gasoline price is expected to peak between $1.52 and $1.62 by June, the report said.

Separately, the nationwide price for diesel fuel declined for the first time in seven weeks, dropping 0.3 cents to $1.32 a gallon, down 12 cents from a year ago. Truckers on the West Coast and central Atlantic states paid the most for diesel fuel at $1.41 a gallon, unchanged from a week ago and down 0.7 cents in each region, respectively.

Both the lower Atlantic states and the Gulf Coast states had the cheapest diesel at $1.28 a gallon, down 0.6 cents in each region.