HAMILTON, NJ - The following report is from AAA Mid-Atlantic:

The Week

Extreme cold temperatures, several inches of snow, gas prices and demand all have fallen in the past week throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.  The national average price at the pump dropped to $3.29 per gallon Friday, a penny lower then week-ago prices, yet three cents more than one month ago, and three cents less than the same date last year.  Following 29 straight days with a price higher than the same date in 2013, Friday’s price marks the seventh consecutive day that the national average has registered a year-over-year discount.  After rising to $3.33 on January 3 – a two-month high – the national average has now declined for 16 of 21 days.

Up until this week, lower crude oil prices have contributed to falling pump prices for motorists across the country.  However, crude oil prices rose closer toward the $100 threshold this week, a settlement not seen since Dec. 27.  Increased domestic crude inventory, a sharp decline in the U.S. dollar and news that a pipeline began shipping crude oil from Oklahoma to Texas all contributed to the commodity’s upswing.  Crude oil topped $97 per barrel Thursday, the highest close in three weeks and settled at $96.84 on Friday.

In its weekly report, the Energy Information Administration noted that U.S. crude oil stocks built by 1 million barrels to 351.2 million barrels, slightly below expectations; gasoline stocks built by 2.1 million barrels to 235.3 million barrels.  Gasoline demand continues to sputter in early 2014 after a minimal week-to-week increase.  Last week, gasoline demand came in at 8.059 million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of just 38,000 bpd.  The first three weeks of the year combined for an average of 8.118 million bpd, the weakest three-week average since 2012.  With the intense cold weather as well as a snowstorm that hit the Mid- Atlantic and Northeast, demand may have trouble getting off the ground next week as well.

The Weekend

“With few exceptions, pump prices across the country have fallen slightly over the last week,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Significant snow and extreme cold temperatures have blanketed most of the country this month, decreasing demand for fuel, which typically pushes gas prices lower.  However, as scheduled seasonal refinery maintenance begins next month, motorists should expect to pay more for gas in February.”

The Week Ahead

AAA anticipates, as is typically the case each February, that prices at the pump will begin to rise as seasonal refinery maintenance begins.  The maintenance period, already begun by some refineries, typically begins in February and could last through late spring.  In 2013, the national average increased 50 cents per gallon from Jan. 18 to Feb. 27.