Four separate reports out this week suggest that the pain at the pump is starting to gradually ease for most Americans and possibly showing signs that the worst may be over.
According to the most recent AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report Monday the average price of regular gas slipped two-tenths of a cent this week holding at a national average of $3.92 per-gallon, seven cents lower than last year's high of $3.99 and fifteen cents below 2008's record high of $4.11.
The AAA report compiled prices from more than 100,000 retail outlets across America and found that of the ten states with prices over $4.00 a gallon, two of them (Michigan and Indiana) dropped below that mark this week bring the number down to (a still high but lower) eight.
Similarly, a survey conducted by the Energy Department this week found a modest 0.2-cent drop in the national price average. According to their data the department estimates the average hovering around $3.93 a gallon.
In a quote published by The Los Angeles Times, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com Patrick DeHaan said, "Gasoline prices in the hardest-hit areas have finally shown signs of relief, with prices falling now in Chicago as they have for a few weeks in California."
Also quoted in the article, independent fuel price analyst Bob van der Valk told the Times he believes that if the we can get through the summer without any major hurricane damage and/or any new military conflicts in the Middle East, "we should see the average price for gasoline in the U.S. drop back down to under $3 per gallon."
Possibly fueling some of the optimistic forecasts may well be the most recent report put out by the International Energy Agency (IEA.) In its report Thursday the IEA said, 'The oil market has broken a two-year cycle of tightening supply conditions as demand growth weakens and top exporter Saudi Arabia increases output."
The agency, which is an adviser on energy policy to most industrialized nations says there may already be a significant rise in global oil stocks due to the increased supply and slower demand growth.
Oil prices reached a high not seen since 2008 of $128.40 a barrel in the beginning of March mainly do to worries over recent sanctions imposed on Iranian oil exports. However, Thursday the market found oil hovering around $120.00 a barrel and according to the IEA may fall even further in the near future.
"Easing first quarter 2012 fundamentals have seen prices recently lose most of the $5 per barrel they gained in March. The muted impact so far is partly because much of this extra supply has been stockpiled on land or at sea," said the agency.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also agrees with the IEA findings. In its monthly report released on Thursday, (the same day as the IEA report) OPEC noticed signs as well that economic activity seemed to be stabilizing with both reports forecasting oil demand growth this year between 800,000-860,000 barrels per day, roughly unchanged from last year.
However, even considering the production increase in Saudi Arabia offsetting the lack of supply from Iran, OPEC cautions that the "U.S. oil demand remains a key uncertainty to the existing demand assessment. The upcoming driving season might be affected by high retail gasoline prices and the pace of the economic recovery."
The IEA also warns, "We cannot discount the possibility that prices will remain high so long as geopolitical uncertainties remain."
All-in-all most experts say that the global oil market is very complicated and at times highly difficult to predict due to the vast number of variables to be considered for total accuracy and a completely reliable assessment.