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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — For the first time in two years, more consumers think gas prices will be lower in the next 30 days rather than higher, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey. Thirty percent of respondents expect prices to be lower in the next month, while 27 percent expect fuel prices to rise.
According to NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, consumers report the average price of regular gasoline where they live is $2.70, 95 cents per gallon lower than the average consumer-reported price in July. This marks the fourth consecutive month in which the reported price has decreased.
Since lower fuel prices have led consumers to have more money in their pockets, they plan to spend more. Twenty-four percent of the survey respondents said they will spend more in the next 30 days than they did last month, up from 21 percent in November and 15 percent in October.
Consumers aged 18 to 34 are especially buoyed by lower gas prices, with one-third expecting to spend more money in the coming month.
Lower gas prices are not raising consumers' spirits about the overall U.S. economy, however. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they are "somewhat" or "very" optimistic about the economy, unchanged from the prior three months. Meanwhile, 77 percent of consumers said gas prices are having a "great" or "some" impact on their feelings about the economy, which is the lowest percentage recorded in two years.
As expected, lower gas prices could have a negative effect on the short-term prospects for sales of alternative fuels and alternative-fuel vehicles. Survey respondents said they wouldn't try to reduce driving until gas prices were $1 higher per gallon than current levels. In addition, the survey revealed consumers would not seek an alternative to driving unless fuel prices advanced $2 per gallon from the current prices.
The NACS Consumers Fuels Survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates from Dec. 9-11 and polled 1,110 gas consumers.
Founded in 1961, Alexandria, Va.-based NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies that do business in nearly 50 countries.