Crude oil rises as gasoline at the pump falls

NEW YORK — The price of gasoline is the lowest in nearly two years, an early holiday gift for U.S. drivers.

The nationwide average for gas is now $3.21. It hasn’t been that low since December 2011. Five states — Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas — have averages below $3 a gallon.

Gasoline has fallen 38 cents since Labor Day, a period in which oil prices declined by about $14 a barrel. In addition, a relatively calm hurricane season has meant no major storm-related disruptions at the nation’s big refineries.

AAA earlier this week forecast the national average could drop to $3.10 by the end of the year.

In Houston Friday, the average was $2.947 a gallon, down from $2.956 Thursday

Meanwhile, the price of oil rose 40 cents Friday to close at $94.60 a barrel. Encouraging data on U.S. employment was offset by the possibility of a loosening of sanctions against Iran by the West.

Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, rose $1.66 to $105.12 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline added 5 cents to $2.55 a gallon.
— Heating oil gained 3 cents to $2.87 a gallon.
— Natural gas advanced 4 cents to $3.56 per 1,000 cubic feet.