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Average gas price hits lowest level since May 2009

The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps slid to the lowest level since May 15, 2009, dropping 24.68 cents in the two weeks ended Dec. 19 to $2.4713 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

Prices are 79.05 cents lower than a year ago, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company. The latest plunge in crude oil prices may lead to a further decline at the pump by a few more pennies, according to Trilby Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Survey.

In the Buffalo Niagara region, gas averaged $2.92 on Monday, among the highest in the continental U.S. The price is down 8 cents from a week ago and down 42 cents from a month ago, according to AAA.

Retail gasoline fell after crude prices dropped for the fourth consecutive week amid increasing production and weaker-than-expected global demand.

Slumping prices at the pump will save U.S. households $550 next year, the Energy Information Administration said.

“It is a dramatic boon to fuel consumers,” Lundberg said in a telephone interview. Gasoline “is a modest portion of our giant gross domestic product and yet it does have a pervasive and festive benefit to motorists.”

The lowest price was in Tulsa, Okla., where customers paid an average $2.06 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $2.74 in Los Angeles.

Gasoline prices have fallen 88 days in a row, according to Michael Green, a spokesman for AAA, the Heathrow, Fla.-based automotive group. That is the longest stretch of declines since the group began tracking prices in 2000.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark priced in Cushing, Okla., declined $9.32, or 14 percent, to $56.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks to Dec. 19. Prices have fallen 47 percent since settling at $107.26 on June 20.

U.S. oil output rose to 9.14 million barrels a day in the week ended Dec. 12, the highest level in weekly EIA data dating back to 1983. U.S. production has increased 65 percent in five years as companies have used horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap into hydrocarbon-rich layers of underground shale rock.

The EIA said last week that global crude consumption next year will be 390,000 barrels a day less in 2015 than it forecast in October.

Gasoline costs for the average American household next year are expected to be the lowest since 2004 because of falling prices and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks that reduce the number of gallons used to travel a given distance, according to the EIA.

Refineries processed 16.3 million barrels of oil a day in the week of Dec. 12 after using 16.63 million the week before, the highest level in records dating back to 1989.

Gasoline stockpiles grew 5.25 million barrels, or 2.4 percent, in the week ended Dec. 12 to 222 million, EIA data show.

Demand over the four weeks ended Dec. 12 reached 9.15 million barrels a day.

Gasoline futures on the Nymex fell 21.39 cents, or 12 percent, to $1.5595 a gallon from Dec. 5 to 19.