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Gas prices drop below $4 a gallon

Gas prices have slid to the lowest prices of the year as an estimated 84 million Americans prepare to take a road trip by car this holiday season.

The national average retail gasoline price on Monday is the cheapest it has been during 2012 — just shy of $3.25 a gallon, according to AAA and Oil Price Information Service.

The national average price has dropped every day this month and has fallen 16 percent since mid-September. It is now at the lowest average price since Dec. 28, 2011, and only 4 cents shy of the December 2011 low of $3.206 a gallon.

"I believe we will go lower than that," said OPIS analyst Tom Kloza. "It's typical to get weaker prices at the end of the year."

If the U.S. goes over the "fiscal cliff" and financial markets, including energy prices, tumble, then pump prices will follow suit and could dip below $3 a gallon, Kloza added. If that happened, it would be the first time the national average has dropped below that threshold since December 2010.

Missouri drivers have already seen prices plunge below the $3-a-gallon mark. The average price there Monday is $2.955, the lowest statewide average in the country. It is also the first time since July that the average price in any state has hit below $3 a gallon.