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Slow economy, fewer drivers bring down gas prices

Charlotte-area drivers are enjoying a break in summer gas prices. A gallon of regular today costs a dime less than it did a week ago. Gas prices typically peak around the Fourth of July and Labor Day because people are demanding more gas for their summer driving. But the other thing that makes prices go up is investor speculation. They buy up oil hoping demand for gas will soon increase and they'll be able to turn a profit. That is what sent gas prices over $2.60 in the Charlotte area a month ago. "That was solely because of investor optimism and not based on supply and demand," explains AAA Carolinas spokesman Brendan Byrnes. "What's bringing (gas prices) back down is the market recognizing that demand is still weak, people aren't driving, unemployment - you think of all those people not driving to work everyday - and the economy just may not be turning around as quickly as those investors hoped." Byrnes says gas prices may start climbing back up later this week if several major companies announce good news in their earnings reports. Even still, Byrnes says the cost to fill up won't come anywhere near the four dollars a gallon Charlotte drivers were paying this time last year.