NEW YORK -- Gas prices fell overnight, ending more than a week of steady advances, and gasoline futures plunged on news that refineries and a pipeline were returning to service quickly after unexpected problems.
Oil, meanwhile, rose above $74 a barrel on concerns about the closure of a North Sea pipeline and a sense that more operating refineries will increase demand for oil. However, analysts question how long oil can continue rising in the face of plummeting gas futures.
The average national price of a gallon of gas dipped 0.4 cent overnight, to $3.05, according to the American Automobile Association and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices rose through the spring, peaking at $3.227 in late May, on concerns about gasoline supplies. Prices then fell steadily to $2.949 a gallon in early July before refinery problems in the Midwest again sent the national average upward.
While one refinery, a 108,000-barrel-per-day facility in Coffeyville, Kan., remains closed after a flood, others have rebounded quickly from unexpected outages over the past week. A BP PLC refinery in Whiting, Ind., returned a 250,000 barrel-per-day piece of equipment to service, and a pipeline linking Texas to Illinois was reopened after a leak forced its closure on Sunday.
That news, coming after a government report last week that showed gasoline inventories grew sharply, sent gas for August down 9.86 cents to settle at $2.1262 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Retail prices typically lag the futures market.
On the Nymex, light, sweet crude for August delivery gained 22 cents to settle at $74.15 a barrel. The last time a front-month contract traded or closed over $74 was Aug. 11.