CATEGORY: Economics

AUTHOR: CUMMIN

HED:Lower gas in October may not mean lower gas in January.

By John Cummins

Daily Journal

Tupelo's gas prices have hit a three-month low, but experts are unsure if the trend will continue.

According to American Automobile Association figures, in October regular gas in Tupelo averaged $1.143 a gallon, down from $1.193 in August. September figures were not tallied by the AAA.

Statewide, the average cost of a gallon of regular gas averaged $1.169 per gallon in October, down 2.9 cents since August.

Danon Jones, a spokesperson for AAA Mississippi, said the drop in prices is typical for this time of the year.

"The demand for gasoline decreases ... so prices drop accordingly," Jones said.

Jerry Wilkerson, executive director of the Mississippi Petroleum Marketers Association, said the decrease is partly due to the end of summer.

"We've passed the summer 'drive-time,'" Wilkerson said, "and that helps keep the wholesale prices down."

The state follows a nationwide trend of sliding gas prices.

The average cost nationally, including all grades and taxes, was $1.2611 per gallon Friday, according to a survey of 10,000 stations nationwide.

That was down 2.06 cents from the Oct. 10 survey and 6 cents since the summer peak on Sept. 5.

In Tupelo, the lowest gas prices this year were recorded in July, where a gallon of regular averaged $1.125 before surging in August. January saw Tupelo's highest prices, then averaging $1.211 a gallon.

In contrast, Grenada had the state's highest average gas prices in October, with a gallon of regular averaging $1.232. That's down from a high of $1.249 in January, the highest average thus far this year in Mississippi.

Wilkerson said a warm winter forecast should keep the forces of demand down, resulting in lower prices. Less heating oil used would mean a larger supply of diesel available.

Otherwise, Wilkerson said forecasting gas prices was "almost impossible." He said uncertainties such as Middle East unrest and transportation costs effect gas prices. Closer to home, "gas wars" between two dealers can easily drive the prices down in a selected area.

"If I could make predictions about prices, I wouldn't be here. I'd be somewhere else making a lot more money," Wilkerson said.

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