(ABC7, AP) A retreat of gas prices over the past week is providing drivers with at least a small dose of relief. Gasoline pump prices dropped nearly a penny to a new national average of $3.84 per gallon a few days before the Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season.
The best part: Analysts say prices could tumble to $3.50 per gallon by June. A gallon of regular is 1.3 cents lower than it was a month ago and $1.04 higher than a year ago.
AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said Sunday that analysts are predicting that gas prices have peaked for the summer driving season.
Ian Felkner's young family will travel this weekend. He especially welcomes cutting his weekly commute from Capitol Hill.
“I typically commute to Woodbridge and so I spend a lot of money on the gas going back and forth. I'll be looking forward to a little bit of relief there,” Felkner said.
Gordie Zaritsky wasn’t as happy. “It was a $100 to fill it up - actually the pump cut off at a hundred dollars. I didn't even get to fill my truck up,” said Zaritsky, a D.C. resident.
Crude oil prices drop with stronger dollar
The price of crude oil dropped as the dollar rose against other currencies, the Associated Press reports. Oil is priced in dollars, and it tends to fall as the dollar rises and makes crude more expensive for investors holding foreign money. The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the dollar against other major currencies, rose 0.7 percent amid concerns about Europe's debt crisis.
Benchmark crude for July delivery lost $2.40, or 2.4 percent, to settle at $97.70 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Meanwhile Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., reported Monday that the rapid rise in China's oil consumption slowed in April. A decelerating economy and high oil prices were "denting end-user demand" in China, Platts said. China is the second biggest petroleum consumer in the world behind the U.S.
Experts also said opening up a Louisiana spillway to provide relief for the Mississippi river protected major refineries from flooding, reducing some of last week's frenzy from oil speculators.
Still, afull tank in D.C. remains most costly than other parts of the country. Anite Kammerich moved from Fairfax to Missouri and likes the Midwest’s lower gas prices.
“I always say - when people visit they can bring their gas can and they can bring some back,” she said.
U.S. consumers buy less gas with sky-high prices, data shows
Other government and industry data show that gasoline demand in the U.S. has declined for two months as pump prices rose above $4 per gallon in many states. The Platts report suggests that international gasoline demand also has been hurt by higher prices.
"You have to ask how unrealistic it's been that prices have been pushed up to this level," analyst and trader Stephen Schork said. "There could be further weakness in this market."
Gearing up for Memorial Day travel
AAA says that nearly 35 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home for the Memorial Day weekend, but that 70 percent of those travelers will offset still sky-high fuel prices by cutting other areas of their travel budget.