Susquehanna Valley gas prices inched up three cents this week to an average of $3.498.

On the national front

Just weeks after prices in the Midwest soared to new or near record-highs on regional supply and production issues, prices have just as dramatically reversed course, as refinery issues have been resolved and retail prices have come plummeting back to earth.

Lingering production issues in the Chicago market, notably maintenance at the ExxonMobil refinery in Joliet, Ill., and the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., had delayed price relief for some Great Lakes states, but with production coming back online the relief has been as swift as it has been welcome.

The largest one-week drops nationwide have been Michigan (30 cents), Indiana (27 cents), Ohio (24 cents) and Wisconsin (24 cents).

Tuesday's national average price for regular unleaded gasoline was $3.554 per gallon. The national average has now declined for 13 straight days.

AAA expects that the national average is likely to continue dropping for the rest of June, but might, as has been the case in recent years, turn higher in July as the summer driving season ramps up. The national average rose 17 cents per gallon in July 2011 and 16 cents in July 2012.

One factor that could mitigate a seasonal increase in retail gasoline prices would be lower crude oil prices.

Following Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments last Wednesday, which were seen as hinting at a possible late-2013 or early-2014 tapering of the Fed's quantitative easing program, both commodities and equities markets tumbled.

A slowing of bond purchases by the Fed would be expected to mean a stronger U.S. dollar. Crude oil futures are priced in dollars. As the currency strengthens relative to those abroad, the price of oil becomes relatively more expensive for those holding foreign currencies. Oil futures become a less attractive investment, which exerts downward pressure on prices, as was the case last week.

Prices recovered some of these losses Monday, after reports of three closed pipelines in Alberta due to flooding pressured WTI futures higher. At the close of formal trading on the NYMEX, WTI settled up $1.49 at $95.18 per barrel.

(AAA East Central, part of the AAA family, serves members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Kentucky. Fuel Gauge is published each week in The News-Item.)