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Gas prices drop to $2.03 average

WASHINGTON — The retail price of gasoline slipped last week to $2.03 per gallon, the Energy Department reported Monday.

The government survey said the average price nationwide of regular-grade unleaded gasoline dipped 0.3 cent last week to $2.032. Prices are 49 cents higher than a year ago.

Average nationwide prices peaked at $2.06 a gallon during the week ending May 22.

Pump prices are highest on the West Coast, averaging $2.291 per gallon, and cheapest on the Gulf Coast, averaging $1.916 per gallon. In the Midwest, gas averages $1.968 per gallon.

One of the key factors behind the high price of gasoline is the soaring cost of oil — the result of strong demand, limited supplies and, most recently, output disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Ivan.

The price of light crude for December delivery fell 63 cents Monday to settle at $54.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil is now roughly 80 percent more expensive than a year ago.

In other Nymex trading, November unleaded gasoline fell 4.01 cents to settle at $1.3975 per gallon.

The nation's supply of commercially available gasoline is 2.1 percent higher than last year at 199.9 million barrels, according to the Energy Department.

Crude inventories stand at 279.4 million barrels, or 3.8 percent lower than last year.