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Gas prices should remain stable during the summer

After running up every day for nearly two straight months, gasoline prices have fallen this week -- as they typically do a little before or after the Fourth of July holiday.

With the economy weak, analysts say prices should remain stable for the rest of the summer, barring a major hurricane, geopolitical events, a collapse in the dollar or some other development that could push oil prices higher.

Here are some questions and answers about what to watch for with gas prices in the coming months.

Q: Are we sure prices at the pump are done going up?

A: Since gas prices peaked at $2.693 a gallon on Sunday -- after going up for 54 straight days -- they have fallen 3.5 cents to $2.658 a gallon on Friday, according to auto club AAA.

Prices tend to climb throughout the spring as refineries shut down for maintenance -- reducing the supply of gas -- and switch production to summer blends of gasoline that are more expensive.

That happened this year, as usual. But now, refiners are operating at a higher capacity than they were earlier this spring, pushing gasoline production up, said Phil Flynn of Alaron Trading Corp. At the same time, there are ample supplies of crude around the world and consumption remains low.

Put this all together, and there's plenty of supply to meet the world's demand, at least at the moment -- and that should help keep prices stable.

Q: Shouldn't we be using more gas this summer, considering that prices are so much cheaper than a year ago?

A: That would make sense, but the recession and worries over unemployment are keeping many families home over the long holiday weekend. AAA said this week that it expects 37.1 million travelers to take a trip of 50 miles or more from home this year over the July Fourth holiday, a decrease of 1.9 percent from last year.

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