Cheaper Gas Boosts Consumers for Holidays

Morning Money Memo…

The timing couldn't be better for the holiday shopping season. The average price of gasoline is down to a 33-month low, which frees up cash in many households for other forms of spending. The US Energy Department says gas prices have dropped to a nationwide average of $3.19 a gallon, down 7 cents in the past week. "It's entirely realistic the national average could hit as little as $3.15, perhaps even $3.10 a gallon by Thanksgiving and it could march within a nickel of $3 a gallon here by Christmas," says analyst Patrick DeHaan is at GasBuddy. Some parts of the country are already seeing big signs at gas stations advertising gas at under $3. At this time a year ago drivers were paying 26 cents more for a gallon of regular unleaded.

One reason for the gas price decline is a glut of supply from refiners. "Normally, refiners would cut back when inventories are high," reports The Wall Street Journal. But they are profiting from converting American petroleum into diesel for overseas markets. Gasoline is produced in the process. Global oil prices are at a five-month low. West Texas crude fell this morning to $93 a barrel.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says the company's Model S sedan won't be recalled despite three vehicle fires in the last few weeks. Musk says the Model S electric car is five times less likely to have a fire than a car powered by gasoline. No drivers were injured in the Tesla fires. The company's share price tumbled 5 percent yesterday. The government could decide to recall the Model S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it's in contact with Tesla and authorities in Tennessee, where the latest fire happened last week.

Most gifts for the holidays will be sold at discount prices. Lindsay Sakraida at the shopping website says even if you don't plan to start shopping for gifts until after Thanksgiving, get ready now. "The best way to prepare is to research beforehand," she says. "Know what you want to buy, but know that you can't necessarily get a deal on the very specific item you want." Research prices before joining in the Black Friday rush. "There will be some really great deals, but lot of items actually are not going to be at the best price of the season." What will be deeply discounted? "Typically lower-end electronics are better on Black Friday," says Sakraida.

The big winners of the proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger could be Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines. They'd win new landing slots if the merger wins final approval. The Justice Department dropped its lawsuit after concessions were made by the two airlines, but this doesn't help travelers in some areas. "These smaller cities, regional cities, that had connecting traffic that was going to be losing competition, this settlement doesn't help those folks at all," says FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney.

A big patent trial between Apple and Samsung Electronics with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake starts in earnest today with lawyers for each side delivering opening statements. The trial is being held to determine how much Samsung owes Apple for copying vital features from the iPhone and iPad. A previous jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion after determining 26 Samsung products had infringed six Apple patents. But a judge found the jury miscalculated damages for 13 products and ordered a new trial to determine the proper amount.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesnow

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