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AAA: National gas prices down, though volatility endures
by Daniel J. Graeber
Washington (UPI) Jul 28, 2015

Chinese woes continue drag on oil prices
New York (UPI) Jul 28, 2015 - Crude oil prices moved closer to the low point for the year amid lingering fears about the health of the Chinese economy in an era of abundant supplies.

Brent crude oil prices fell 1 percent from the previous close to sell for $52.91, about 16 percent below the start of July. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was relatively flat at $47.27, about 20 percent off from July 1.

Both indices are near their low points for the year and off more than 50 percent from one year ago. Brent crude oil averaged $110 per barrel during second quarter 2014. In releasing quarterly figures, BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said Tuesday crude oil prices "have fallen back in response to continued oversupply and market weakness and the recent agreements regarding Iran."

Data last week from industry group the American Petroleum Institute show a 2.3 million barrel increase in stockpiles in the United States. The supply situation may be compounded if more of Iran's oil floods the market after sanctions pressure eases in response to the recent multilateral nuclear agreement.

The Chinese economy, among the world's largest, is again showing signs of weakness. The Shanghai Index was in a free fall in early July, dragging on global crude oil markets see-sawing on supply and demand dynamics.

The Shanghai fell 8.5 percent in Monday trading for its worst day since the dawn of the global financial crisis in 2007. The index lost another 1.7 percent by the closing bell Tuesday.

Chinese National Development and Reform Commission Secretary-General Li Pumin said that, while the government is working to ensure qualitative growth, the economy is facing severe headwinds.

"The government is still facing slowing fiscal income and heavy pressure to stabilize employment," Li said Tuesday.

While the national average retail price for a gallon of gasoline is on the decline, regional markets are showing considerable volatility, motor club AAA said.

AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.70 per gallon, about five cents below this time last week. The price for Tuesday reflects 13 straight days for a decline in retail gasoline prices.

"Most drivers are paying the lowest July prices since 2009 and are saving 82 cents per gallon at the pump compared to a year ago," the motor club said in a weekly market report.

Gasoline prices are in part a reflection of crude oil prices, which are 20 percent lower, or about $12, lower than the start of the month for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark. AAA attributed the decline in crude oil prices to an oversupplied market in an economy that was performing below expectations.

As a whole, national prices are moving steadily lower along with crude oil prices. Regionally, however, the situation is considerably volatile, AAA reported.

"Pump prices have moved dramatically higher in California this month due unexpected drawdowns in supplies, shortages in the blending components used to make the state's mandated boutique fuel and recent reports of several refineries dealing with production issues," it said. "On the other end of the spectrum, production at refineries in the Midwest is reported to have reached a 2015 high and prices have subsequently moved noticeably lower in much of the region."

At $3.84 per gallon on average, California gas prices are up about 40 cents from one month ago. At $2.43 per gallon on average, Ohio gas prices are down about 40 cents from one month ago.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said it expected retail prices to average $2.44 for full-year 2015 and $2.55 for next year.

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Oil prices drop on Chinese woes
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