Gasoline price fall comes to a halt

The steep decline in gasoline prices nationally has come to a halt, according to fuel price gauger GasBuddy.

The rapid decline of gasoline prices appears to have skidded to a halt.

The cost for a gallon of gas edged up 2.7 cents last week to $2.05 a gallon nationally, according to fuel price gauger GasBuddy.

In South Carolina, the price declined a penny, averaging $1.85 a gallon, based on the firm’s survey of more than 3,000 gas outlets in the Palmetto State.

“The four-month slide in gasoline prices has indeed come to a halt,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. “A reduction in refinery output has been matched in recent weeks by sharp increases in wholesale gasoline prices. Since Jan. 7 through Friday, wholesale prices on average are up 20 cents per gallon so there’s no doubt now that the first-quarter climb is under way and is already being reflected in rising prices at the pump.”

Last month, GasBuddy predicted gasoline prices will rise slowly from February until May to about $3 a gallon nationally before settling back down to closer to $2 a gallon by the end of the year if current market conditions persist.

The national average is about $1.23 per gallon lower than a year ago and nearly 16 cents less than a month ago, according to GasBuddy. The price of gasoline in South Carolina is down $1.23 per gallon from one year ago and about 19 cents lower than a month ago.

The Greenville-Spartanburg area continues to have the lowest gasoline prices in the state, averaging $1.82 a gallon for regular, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

The Charleston-North Charleston market averaged $1.85 a gallon, down one cent from a week ago, AAA said.

In a separate finding Monday, the National Association of Convenience Stores said, even with gas prices near six-year lows, U.S. consumers continue to look for the best prices.

Three in five consumers say they would drive five minutes out of their way to save five cents per gallon. An even greater number, 72 percent, would pay by cash if they could save five cents per gallon, according to the group’s survey.

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Nearly three in four consumers say that the price is the most important factor in determining where they buy gas. Also, consumers are increasingly seeking out discounts for their gas purchases. Two in three say they have taken advantage of a discount, such as using a loyalty card or paying by cash to save money buying gas.

“It doesn’t matter whether gas prices are $4 or $2 per gallon, consumers still want to find the best price possible,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. “Retailers are constantly fighting to attract price-sensitive drivers to their stores, especially given that 35 percent of gas customers say that they also go inside the store after fueling.”

About 80 percent of the gasoline sold in the U.S. is at a convenience store, the trade group said.

The survey found 20 percent of consumers say they are driving more because of lower gas prices, and 95 percent said it would make it easier to go on vacation. It also found that prices would have to rise $1.53 per gallon to reduce the amount Americans drive.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.