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    Consumer Sentiment Begins Year on a Positive Note

    NACS study shows gas prices would need to exceed $4 before consumers cut back on driving.

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Consumers are feeling better about the economy compared to last summer, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, which looks at how gas prices affect consumer sentiment.

    Forty-three percent of consumers said they are optimistic about the economy, the highest level of optimism seen since July 2013. NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, reported that the rise in optimism was seen in all areas of the country, including the Northeast and Midwest, which suffered from record-cold temperatures during the Jan. 7-9 polling period.

    The survey revealed several other positive indicators. More than half (53 percent) of the 1,112 gas consumers surveyed expect gas prices to be the same or lower in the next 30 days, with a record-low 7 percent saying gas prices will be much higher.

    In addition, drivers said prices would have to increase significantly before they would consider reducing the amount that they drive. On average, fuel purchasers said the price of a regular gallon of gasoline would need to reach $4.04 per gallon before they cut back on driving. The national average per gallon was $3.322 on Jan. 6, the week in which the survey was fielded, OPIS reported.

    "Future prospects are outweighing current conditions in defining consumer sentiment," said John Eichberger, NACS' vice president of government relations. "While it remains to be seen if conditions do in fact improve, consumer optimism is great news for consumers, retailers and the economy as the new year begins."

    Alexandria, Va.-based NACS, founded in 1961, has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.

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