updated 12/22/2003 12:19:37 PM ET 2003-12-22T17:19:37

A year of up-and-down gas prices ended with two weeks of stability, but the steady pricing isn't likely to last into the new year, an industry analyst said.

A Dec. 19 national survey of retail gasoline prices showed they had fallen very slightly to $1.5123 per gallon for all grades combined since Dec. 5, when the last survey was taken, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations.

The price was down .08 cents from Dec. 5, but was 6.51 cents a gallon higher than it was on Dec. 20, 2002, when it was $1.4472.

The stability over two weeks was rare in a year of unpredictable shifts, and was not expected to last because it was based on lower wholesale prices that are already climbing in much of the country, said analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday.

For 2003 overall, retail gasoline prices averaged $1.6085, up 21.6 cents from the 2002 average price. The all-grades price began this year at $1.5034, then shot up in because of the Venezuelan oil strike and California's introduction of higher-cost ethanol blended gasoline. The price peaked on March 21 at $1.7608.

The price fell to $1.5366 by early June, but shot up again because of electricity blackouts and a West Coast pipeline shutdown. Prices spiked again Sept. 12, when the all-grades price was $1.7513. Since then, it has fallen 23.9 cents to the current price.

"We're back down to approximately where we were in January," Lundberg said.

Wholesale prices are up in many parts of the country because of crude oil price increases, and pump prices will likely climb as a result.

World and U.S. crude oil supplies are somewhat tight, due to OPEC's decision not to raise oil production and rebounding oil demand.

Prices may also go up in the next few weeks because two new standards will take effect in January, Lundberg said. Lower sulfur gasoline nationally mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency will be introduced, and a ban on the additive MTBE will take effect in New York, Connecticut, and California.

The national weighted average price of gasoline, including taxes, at self-serve pumps Friday was about $1.48 for regular, $1.58 for mid-grade and $1.67 for premium.

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