( LatWp ) - Retail gasoline price declines accelerated throughout the United States over the past week, a federal report showed Monday. But the good news for motorists was tempered as crude oil futures shot past $69 a barrel because of international labor strife, continuing violence in Nigeria and concerns about Iran's nuclear development efforts.
In Nigeria, an important source of light sweet crude oil for U.S. refineries, a crowd of hundreds of villagers chased workers away from a Niger Delta oil transfer facility run by Chevron on Monday. The incident came just one day after anti-government rebels took over a separate oil flow station and allegedly held workers and some Nigerian soldiers captive.
In addition, oil workers in Nigeria and in Brazil were planning to conduct strikes as early as this week. Brazil is a big producer of ethanol and holds the second largest oil reserves in South America behind Venezuela.
The labor news combined with continuing violence in the Middle East to drive crude oil to its highest level in nine months. Crude oil for July delivery finished the day up $1.09 to $69.09 a barrel in New York futures markets trading.
``There had been some hope after the recent Nigerian presidential election and the more recent release of a very important rebel leader that there would be fewer attacks, but so far that hasn't happened,'' said Phil Flynn, vice president and senior market analyst for Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. ``There doesn't appear to be anywhere internationally where we are getting a break on news that affects oil.''
For the moment, at least, the cost of gasoline hasn't been affected by the oil news. That was in spite of the fact that U.S. gasoline supplies remained tight at 201.5 million barrels as of June 8, which was 11.6 million barrels below the year-earlier level.
The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular fell 6.7 cents to $3.009 a gallon nationwhide. Gasoline prices began falling four weeks ago, and the average is now 13.8 cents above the same week in 2006. The biggest drop was in the Midwest, where the average fell 8.9 cents to $2.984 a gallon. ``The prices right now are still a little too high and they will continue to drift lower. People are still annoyed and demand for gasoline is not as robust as the Energy Department suggests,'' said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey.