NEW YORK — The worst is over, for now. Gasoline prices are starting to fall.
After a four-month surge pushed gasoline to nearly $4 per gallon in early April, drivers, politicians and economists worried that gasoline prices might soar past all-time highs.
Instead, pump prices have dropped 6 cents over two weeks to a national average Friday of $3.88. Experts said gasoline could fall another nickel or more next week, saving drivers about $2 per fill-up.
Drivers also might get to say something they haven’t since October 2009 — they’re paying less at the pump than they did a year ago.
Gasoline prices are lower than they were a year ago in 11 states, according to the Oil Price Information Service. At $3.88, the national average is still high, but it’s down from a peak of $3.94.
Predictions of $5 gasoline earlier this year have evaporated.
In the Chaleston-North Charleston market, the average price Friday for a gallon of unleaded was about $3.71, down 2 cents from a week earlier, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report.
Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, said he expects gasoline prices to drop to just above $3.80 by late next week.
Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, said the falling prices will put more money into the economy for Americans to spend elsewhere.
A 10-cent drop in gasoline prices would mean drivers would have an extra $37 million per day to spend on other things.
Gasoline prices have been pushed high by crude prices that have averaged $104 per barrel this year. World oil demand is expected to set a record this year, and a series of production outages around the world have kept supplies low.
Oil rose to $110 as the West tightened sanctions on Iran in an effort to make it harder for that country to sell oil and pressure it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Closer to home, there were concerns about restricted supplies of gasoline on the East Coast after three refineries closed and two more were set to be shut down.
Gasoline futures prices, which are quickly reflected in pump prices, rose to their highest levels in nearly a year.
Prices are not expected to plummet. Even if the Iran tensions were totally resolved — an unlikely event — analysts said oil would not fall much below $90 per barrel.
And there’s a possibility that prices could still reverse themselves. Hurricanes, inflamed Middle East conflict or fighting in a major oil-producing country like Iran or Nigeria could reduce supplies.
A surge in world economic growth could increase demand.
Gasoline prices rise nearly every spring, and often peak in May.
This year, they are falling a little earlier, and motorists are already making summer vacation plans.