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    Gasoline Price Slide

    Relief comes to retailers in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

    Retailers fearing a backlash from consumers over the high price of gas can breathe a sigh of relief as an industry report released yesterday indicated prices have fallen 10 percent ahead of the peak summer vacation season.

    "Drivers will be pleased that they're getting relief from the high prices that they suffered through (this spring)," said Geoff Sundstrom, spokesman for the American Automobile Association (AAA).

    The national average price of gasoline fell 17 cents from record highs last month to $1.55 a gallon, or 11 cents below last year, according to the AAA survey of 60,000 service stations.

    The decline, attributed to growing supply due to heavy refining activity and sluggish demand, comes only days ahead of Independence Day road travel, which the AAA anticipates will be busier than last year despite a slowing economy.

    Roughly 36.6 million Americans are planning to take a trip more than 50 miles from home July 4 -- up slightly from last year's 36.3 million -- with 31.8 million of them planning trips by car, according to the AAA.

    Pump prices could have farther to fall, however, tracking a nearly 40 percent nosedive in wholesale prices. Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange, which reflect wholesale values, were hovering just below 74 cents a gallon Wednesday, down from the late-April high of $1.17 a gallon.

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