Record High Gas Prices in Several States Even Though Oil Drops Below $100

Gas prices have increased every day this week, even though the price of oil has been dropping.  The current average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the US is $3.98, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

Wisconsin’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline reached a new all-time high of $4.115 today, surpassing the previous record of $4.111 set on July 17, 2008. In Michigan, a gallon of regular gas climbed to $4.26, which tops the states record high price of $4.21, set in July 2008.

In West Virginia, gas prises rose 5 cents to $4.155 per gallon, surpassing the previous all-time high of $4.12 a gallon reached in July 2008. In Indiana, the average price of a gallon of regular gas hit a record high price of $4.25. The previous record high was $4.17 a gallon, set in September 2008.

The New York Mercantile Exchange reported that oil futures settled at $99.80, down $9.44 or 8.6 percent for the day. This is the first time since March 16 that oil prices closed below $100.

This is the biggest one-day move down in percentage terms since April 20, 2009 (-8.84 percent) and the biggest in nominal dollar terms since September 29, 2008 (-$10.52).  The massive sell-off was sparked by lower consumer demand for gasoline, an improvement in the value of the U.S. dollar and concerns about slowing global growth.

But consumers can’t get too excited just yet. Gas prices tend to lag oil price swings by a few weeks, but if the oil price drop is temporary (which is likely, given rising demand from emerging markets and steady oil production in non-OPEC countries), high gas prices may stick around. Most analysts  say that historically  gas retailers will let their margins expand a bit before passing those savings onto consumers.