Americans can give thanks for cheaper gasoline
WASHINGTON — No one begs Santa Claus for cheaper gasoline. Yet, falling gas prices are shaping up as an unexpected gift for drivers — and for people on their holiday shopping lists.
The average price of gasoline has tumbled 49 cents from its peak this year to $3.29 a gallon, putting it on track for the lowest average since 2010, according to AAA. Because many Americans have had no pay raises, whatever money they're saving on gas has freed a bit more for other purchases.
And history shows that when gas prices drop, consumers become more likely to splurge on dinners out. Impulse buys at the mall seem like less of a stretch. More people buy a gas-station gift card after fueling up.
Many retail analysts have forecast a ho-hum sales gain of around 2 percent this year; others predict an increase of up to 3.9 percent. But steadily cheaper gas could send holiday sales shooting above 5.4 percent, analysts say.
“Every little thing moves the needle at this point,” said Carl Riccadonna, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. “The benefit at this time of the year certainly helps retailers, since it is not spread evenly throughout the year.”
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Information Service, foresees the average price drifting down, as it typically does this time of year, to as low as $3.05 by year's end.
For retailers, the best-case scenario would be for the national average to breach $3 a gallon, a psychological barrier that could help accelerate spending.
Cheaper gas could help build on the momentum of 2 million more Americans finding jobs this year. It might also help shore up consumers' fragile confidence in an economic recovery that's lumbered along for 4½ years.
Riccadonna estimates that breaking $3 gas would lead the average shopper to spend $47 more over the holidays. That figure would translate into $15 billion worth of extra shopping — possibly the difference between lukewarm and red-hot sales growth.
Prices briefly dipped below $3 in five states — Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas — before rising above that threshold again.
Some service stations have been charging less than $3 around Tucson, Ariz., where Seth Nilson, a high school teacher, and his wife, Cristi, are enjoying more time at restaurants.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fewer Pittsburgh-area hospitals lost money last year, agency reports
- Taxes matter in fund investing, even when there’s no bill
- American Eagle posts improved first-quarter results
- Developer hopes to make Allegheny Center a tech hub
- In difficult job market, commutes can be part of challenge
- AT&T evolves beyond phones
- Cheap oil can hurt economy
- Murray Energy expects to lay off as many as 1,800 more
- Keep pesky neighbors from stealing your Internet
- FAA: Cockpit email system reduces delays
- Drenching rains green pastures, bode well for cattle herd expansion in Great Plains