You may pay more than ever for a late-summer drive.
U.S. drivers paid an average of $3.72 per gallon Monday. That’s the highest price ever on this date, according to auto club AAA, a shade more than the $3.717 average Aug. 20, 2008. A year ago, the average was $3.578.
More daily records are likely over the next few weeks. The national average could increase to $3.75 per gallon by Labor Day, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. By comparison, gas prices stayed at less than $3.70 in late August and early September in both 2008 and 2011.
Retail gasoline prices have gone up about 39 cents per gallon, or 12 percent, since hitting a low of $3.326 on July 2, according to AAA, OPIS and Wright Express. Mr. Kloza estimates that U.S. drivers are paying $149 million more each day for gas than in early July. That isn’t what the sluggish economy needs, since any extra money that goes to fill gas tanks doesn’t get spent at movie theaters or restaurants.
The price at the pump in the U.S. fell more than 60 cents per gallon during the spring when oil fell as the global economy slowed and turmoil in the Middle East seemed to subside.
But oil has risen to $96 per barrel from $78 in late June. Investors have been worried about disruption to oil supplies in the Middle East and North Sea. In the U.S., there were problems with refineries and pipelines in the West Coast and Midwest, including a fire in California. Seasonal factors are also at play: Summer blends of gas cost more and demand goes up as families go on vacation.
Lowe’s 2Q results miss expectations
NEW YORK — For Lowe’s, the improving housing market is still a bust.
The nation’s second largest improvement retailer cut its full-year-earnings and revenue forecasts Monday after posting a 10 percent drop in second-quarter net income. Revenue at stores opened at least a year, a key yardstick for measuring the health of the retailer, declined 0.4 percent.
The results for Lowe’s were hurt in part by a timing shift in how the retailer reported the quarter and a charge tied to job cuts. But the latest performance also shows the company’s efforts to revamp its merchandise and prices aren’t working while its rival Home Depot is getting a boost from the improving but still weak housing market.
In particular, the return for Lowe’s last summer to offering permanent low prices in many items across the store, instead of offering fleeting discounts, hasn’t yet resonated with shoppers who have been accustomed to seeing big sales signs. In fact, Lowe’s said Monday that it will take until the middle of next year to reap the benefits of the strategy. The company said it is taking apart its pricing plan to have a better balance between temporary promotions and permanent discounts based on what it’s learned from shoppers.
Insurer Aetna to buy Coventry in $5.7 billion deal
Aetna, one of the nation’s biggest health insurers, staked a $5.7 billion claim in the burgeoning market for government-funded coverage Monday when it announced plans to buy fellow insurer Coventry Health Care.
The Hartford, Conn., company’s proposed cash-and-stock acquisition of Coventry will bolster its Medicaid enrollment months before millions of uninsured Americans are expected to become eligible for coverage through that state-federal program as part of President Obama’s massive health care overhaul.
The deal also ramps up Aetna Inc.’s Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug businesses, as interest in these plans grows while the baby boomer generation ages and becomes eligible. Medicare Advantage plans are privately run versions of the government’s Medicare coverage for the elderly and disabled people.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports