NEW YORK — Gas prices reached an all-time high earlier this week, averaging $3.09 per gallon, with no real relief in sight for the nearly 30 million holiday travelers on the road and in the skies.
Although oil is rumored to hit $100 a barrel, today crude inventories overall fell unexpectedly in a mixed report that analysts said didn't do much to change a prevailing view that oil supplies are tight amid rising demand. Inventories of distillates including heating oil dropped more than expected and crude imports fell, too.
'It's two steps forward, then one back in terms of this week's inventory cushion,' said Tim Evans, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in New York.
'Not exciting enough to get us over the hump just yet,' concurred Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago, referring to the $100 a barrel mark.
Light, sweet crude for January delivery fell 70 cents to $97.33 a barrel in midday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange but alternated frequently between gains and losses. Before the inventory report, they had risen as high as $99.29 a barrel in electronic trading to break the previous intraday record of $98.62 set earlier this month.
Crude prices are within the range of inflation-adjusted highs set in early 1980. Depending on how the adjustment is calculated, $38 a barrel then would be worth $96 to $103 or more today.
Other energy futures were mixed. December gasoline fell 0.95 cent to $2.442 a gallon on the Nymex, but December heating oil rose 0.45 cent to $2.6946 a gallon.
December natural gas rose 13.6 cents to $7.613 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, December Brent crude fell 41 cents to $95.08 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
At the pump, meanwhile, gas prices fell 0.1 cent overnight to a national average of $3.089 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.
Prices have fallen 2.3 cents since last week, and are almost 14 cents below the record price of $3.227 a gallon set in May.
In its weekly inventory report, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said oil inventories fell by 1.1 million barrels during the week ended Nov. 16. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, on average, had expected an increase of 700,000 barrels.
In response to the most recent increases, operators all over the country have begun passing a fuel surcharge onto clients. That charge is expected to increase as fuel prices continue to soar.
Visit http://autos.msn.com/everyday/gasstations.aspx?zip&src=Netx to find the lowest fuel prices in your area.
SOURCE: New York Times, CBS — San Francisco, msn.com