NEW YORK — Motorists are starting to see some relief at the gas pump, with prices falling over the weekend and following the path of crude oil as its own advance toward $100 has stalled.
Gas dropped 1.4 cents over the weekend to a national average of $3.095 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices peaked at $3.112 a gallon last Thursday, and appear unlikely to rise the additional 10 to 15 cents many analysts predicted when oil appeared to be marching relentlessly toward $100 a barrel.
Crude futures, meanwhile, rose Monday in a late-session rally on concerns about whether OPEC will boost output and on concerns about a move by Iran and Venezuela to have oil priced in a currency other than the dollar.
"There's a lot of uncertainty right now," said James Cordier, president of Liberty Trading Group in Tampa, Fla.
Light, sweet crude for January delivery rose 80 cents Monday to settle at $94.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday after alternating between gains and losses.
"People are kind of torn as to which way the market will go this week," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc. in Amherst, Mass.
The possibility that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will agree at a meeting next month to increase production appeared less certain after a weekend gathering of OPEC heads of state in Saudi Arabia ended with no statement on output. Recent statements from Saudi Arabia's oil minister have suggested the cartel may boost production to bring oil prices down.
The weekend meeting did generate some controversy when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for oil to be listed for sale in a currency other than the dollar. The move was rebuffed by Saudi Arabia and was widely viewed as little more than America-bashing, but it did highlight the fact that OPEC can't necessarily be relied upon to act in the West's best interests, analysts said.
Traders also fretted about the possibility of a surprise supply decline in this week's oil inventory report or an overseas supply disruption during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, on average, predict that oil inventories rose last week by 800,000 barrels. The Nymex will be closed on Thursday and close early on Friday.
Earlier Monday, oil prices fell after Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s downgrade of large banks and its estimate that Citigroup Inc. would have to write down $15 billion in coming quarters due to its exposure to risky debt.
Energy investors have long worried that the problems in the subprime mortgage industry would widen, hurting the general economy and reducing demand for oil and gasoline.
Other energy futures were mixed Monday. Gasoline for December delivery rose 0.62 cent to settle at $2.3816 a gallon, while heating oil futures rose 1.71 cents to settle at $2.6042 a gallon. Natural gas for December fell 21.4 cents to settle at $7.787 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, January Brent crude rose 66 cents to settle at $92.28 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Associated Press Writers Pablo Gorondi and Gillian Wong in Singapore contributed to this report.