Finally, gas prices appear to be easing.

But don't rev up the engine and return to gas-guzzling ways yet -- the break could be temporary.

The average price of gas nationally dropped less than a cent over the past weekend, after 32 to 35 consecutive days of increases, according to gasbuddy.com and the AAA.

The national average stood at $3.777 a gallon Monday -- down from $3.781 on Friday, AAA said.

"The streak is over, folks. At least for now," said Patrick DeHaan of gasbuddy.com. "This is certainly excellent news for all of you disillusioned motorists, but I would caution you not to get overly thrilled, as prices may linger near these levels for some time."

The average price of gas nationally dropped less than a cent over the past weekend, after 32 to 35 consecutive days of increases.
The average price of gas nationally dropped less than a cent over the past weekend, after 32 to 35 consecutive days of increases. (Nati Harnik / AP)

Prices in California were at $4.232 a gallon Monday, virtually unchanged from $4.230 the day before. San Francisco fell from $4.251 to $4.249, and in the San Jose area prices went from $4.177 to $4.176.

Prices have soared 56 cents a gallon during the past 30 days in California. That's the largest one-month jump since 2008.

Just a couple of weeks ago energy experts predicted prices would fall after Valentine's Day. That didn't happen.

There are still signs that prices could creep higher. The Energy Information Administration says drivers in the U.S. should expect to see a "modest further increase" in prices at the pump as refinery outages cut supply and plants begin making more expensive summer-grade fuels.


Advertisement

The federal agency says retail gasoline, already at a record level for this time of year, hasn't yet caught up with a surge in wholesale prices, despite a 45-cent increase since Jan. 1.

"Despite the significant rise in retail gasoline prices since the start of the year, a part of the even steeper rise in wholesale prices has not been fully reflected in pump prices," the agency reported.

Plant shutdowns on the West Coast have been particularly heavy since January. "While some capacity has come back online, several outages persist in the region," the agency said.

The average price of gas nationally dropped less than a cent over the past weekend, after 32 to 35 consecutive days of increases.
The average price of gas nationally dropped less than a cent over the past weekend, after 32 to 35 consecutive days of increases. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

Even as refineries restore production during the next several weeks, new supplies will be countered by a typical increase in demand at the beginning of spring and short-term gasoline prices will remain "volatile" and sensitive to unplanned outages, it said.

"Should a refinery go down," DeHaan said, "then beware."

Bloomberg News contributed to this report. Contact Gary Richards at 408-920-5335.