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    Gas Prices Cool Down

    A two-month streak of hefty increases mercifully comes to an end.

    Gasoline prices nationwide leveled off the past two weeks, halting a ruthless two-month cycle that saw price soar 29 cents a gallon, analyst Trilby Lundberg said yesterday.

    A gallon of gas climbed less than one-cent between May 4 and May 18, to $1.76 per gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations nationwide.

    While prices remain at an all-time unadjusted high, increased supplies have at least temporarily put an end to the big price hikes that alarmed motorists. "The refiners and marketers have stepped up to the plate to meet the challenge of splintering supplies of the many types of gasoline required around the country to prevent smog. And supplies are no longer so critical," she said.

    Even as demand rises with Memorial Day weekend -- the unofficial start of summer driving season -- prices should remain steady and could fall a couple of cents in many cities.

    Lundberg attributed the recent price spikes to difficulties foisted on manufacturers to produce a variety of cleaner gasoline blends. Unlike last year OPEC production cuts, the oil cartel has been a non-player in the season's price escalation.

    According to the survey, the average price for self-serve regular was $1.72, $1.82 for self-serve midgrade and $1.90 for self-serve premium. For full-service, the prices were $2.05 for regular, $2.14 for midgrade and $2.22 for premium.

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