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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new survey by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, continues to find a link between consumer optimism and low prices at the pump.
According to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, another decline in gas prices helped fuel Americans' optimism about the economy to near record levels.
Drivers report a median gas price of $2.22, down 13 cents from $2.35 in June. This month's prices are the lowest gas prices reported by consumers this year, NACS said.
And as gas prices decline, consumers feel more optimistic about the state of the economy. Three in five (60 percent) American drivers report feeling optimistic about the economy, a two-point increase from last month and a point off the record high recorded in March, the survey found.
Last July, 47 percent of American drivers expressed optimism related to the economy.
Historically, most consumers say that prices will increase over the next 30 days; however, that perception is changing as gas prices remain low for a sustained period. Only 41 percent of drivers now say that they expect prices to climb this month, the lowest percentage in 12 months, NACS reported.
The decline in gas price has been felt most strongly in the South, where 55 percent of consumers say they noticed lower gas prices this month. In contrast, just under a third (29 percent) of consumers in the West say they noticed this month's dip in prices.
Overall, 43 percent say they believe gas prices are lower than 30 days ago.
In addition, nearly one in four consumers (24 percent) say that they will drive more this month and nearly one in five (18 percent) say they will spend more.
"The cumulative effect of low gas prices over the past three summers is certainly pushing consumer optimism higher," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "Low gas prices, warm summer weather and high consumer optimism are the three factors most cited by convenience stores retailers looking to grow their sales and retailers are very optimistic about summer sales."
According to a NACS retailer optimism survey published in late June, more than four in five convenience store retailers (83 percent) say they are optimistic about their business prospects for the third quarter of 2017, the highest level recorded in the past eight quarters.
The U.S. convenience store industry sells an estimated 80 percent of the fuel sold in the country, and NACS has conducted monthly surveys related to economic issues since January 2013.
From July 5-7, the NACS Consumer Fuels Survey polled 1,118 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month. Penn Schoen Berland conducted the online survey.