Gasoline prices start end-of-driving-season slide

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DALLAS — The United States is heading toward the Labor Day holiday with the lowest gasoline pump prices for this time of year since 2010.

Sliding demand, the return of refinery units from Canada to Texas and the absence of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean have helped swell stockpiles to the highest seasonal level in three years and pushed prices down every day this month.

Gasoline may drop another 0.5 cent a day in coming weeks, said Michael Green, a spokesman for AAA, the largest U.S. motoring group.

“There remains enough supply for the demand,” Green said in a phone interview from Washington.

“Summer trips are ending and many people are headed back to school. You will get a little spurt around Labor Day, but not enough to change things.”

Gasoline is down about 9 cents this month, compared with a 33-cent jump last August, when the largest refinery in Venezuela was shut after a fire and Hurricane Isaac closed refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The Energy Information Administration estimates U.S. demand for the motor fuel may slip this year to the weakest since 2001 as the economy in the U.S., the world’s largest oil-consuming nation, struggles to gain momentum.

The average pump price was $3.539 a gallon Wednesday, matching the lowest level in a month, Heathrow, Fla.-based AAA said on its website.

Retail prices have fallen along with gasoline futures, which are down 2 percent in August on the Nymex. West Texas Intermediate crude oil has fallen 0.3 percent from a 16-month high on July 19 on the exchange.

Deliveries to wholesalers in the week ended Aug. 9 contracted 0.6 percent to 9.19 million a day, 1.3 percent below a year earlier, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

Demand typically tapers off after the Labor Day holiday, which falls this year on Sept. 2.

In the past five years it has declined an average 4.2 percent during September.

Petroleos Brasileiro SA restarted a fluid catalytic cracker at its Pasadena, Texas, refinery by Aug. 13 after an unplanned shutdown.

Irving Oil Corp.’s New Brunswick, Canada, plant was scheduled to restart units, including a catalytic cracker, in the week of Aug. 4 after unplanned work.

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