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    Downward Trend?

    U.S. gasoline prices drop for the first time in three weeks

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. retail gas prices fell for the first time in three weeks as declines in the Midwest and California pushed the average cost for a gallon down 0.6 cents to $1.40 the Energy Department said yesterday.

    The latest pump price in the United States, based on a weekly survey of more than 800 service stations by the department's Energy Information Administration, is down 9 cents from a year ago. The national drop was led by the Midwest, where the average cost for a gallon of gas plunged 2 cents to $1.38.

    The West Coast had the most expensive regular unleaded gasoline in the country even though prices dipped one cent to $1.51. The Lower Atlantic region remained the cheapest as prices rose 0.7 cents to an average $1.31.

    Among the six major cities highlighted by the EIA, Houston was the cheapest place for gasoline prices at $1.32, down 0.3 cents. In Denver, gasoline eased 0.4 cents to $1.39 while in New York City they rose 0.1 cents to $1.48. San Francisco drivers continued to pay the most to fuel-up as the cost for a gallon of gas was $1.62, down 1.7 cents.

    Prices in the six cities have fallen between 0.9 cents in New York City and 2.3 cents in Chicago from a year ago.

    The national price for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, which is sold at about one-third of the gas stations in cities and smoggier areas, rose 0.3 cents to $1.47.

    U.S. truckers continued to pay more in the latest week as the price for a gallon of diesel rose 0.3 cents to $1.42, its sixth straight weekly increase. Prices, which rose across all major regions except the West Coast, are down an estimated 5.6 cents from a year ago. Truckers in the Lower Atlantic paid the least for diesel at $1.36, up 0.3 cents. The West Coast had the highest price even though prices fell 2.3 cents to $1.53.

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