ROME, Ga. -- Oil sank under $57 on Friday to the lowest level since July, deepening the week's losses as swelling fuel stocks eased consumer fears of tight winter supplies.
U.S. light crude oil was down 64 cents at $57.16 a barrel, off a session low of $56.93, the weakest since July 21, according to a report from Reuters.
U.S. oil prices lost around $3, or 5%, since the start of last week, and are nearly $14 below a late-August record of $70.85 touched in the wake of hurricane damage. The market has been weakened by signs of slower oil demand growth, rising stocks and mild weather.
"There's a real concern about declining demand," said one trader. "I don't see anything that will stop the momentum. Down, down we go."
At the same time, consumers are cheering, yet cynical about, the fall of gasoline prices at the pump, according to a story in the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune. After months of paying dearly at the pumps, Robert E. Davis of Rockmart, Ga., was cautiously optimistic to see gas selling for $2.25 per gallon on Thursday, according to the story.
Although the lower price was a welcome change, Davis doesn't count on it staying that way. It depends on those who are in control, Davis said as he filled up his car's gas tank. They can make it what they want.
Controlling factors in fuel pricing are, in fact, quite removed from the consumers who feel a pinch at the pumps and even from the retailers selling that gas, according to Jim Tudor of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores. They're factors that are outside the control of the typical gasoline retailer, Tudor told the newspaper.
It's on the other side of the globe, he explained, that crude-oil prices the single largest component in the fluctuation of gas prices are driving the changes in our fuel costs.
A recent dip in prices, which ranged from around $2.25 to $2.35 for a gallon of regular unleaded in Rome Thursday, was caused by the decrease in crude oil prices, which are below $60 per barrel for the first time in a long time, Tudor said.
But as winter comes, all that could change, according to Tudor. If we should get a real severe winter, he said, that will put a tremendous pressure on the oil supply market. More pressure means more demand, Tudor explained, and that in turn will lead to higher prices.