U.S. drivers started the new year with a break at the pump as the retail price for gasoline fell for the first time in three weeks, the government said on Wednesday.

The national price for regular unleaded gasoline dropped almost a penny over the last week, down 0.7 cent to $2.33 a gallon, but was 9.6 cents higher than a year ago, according to the federal Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of service stations.

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Pump prices could fall more if crude oil costs continue to drop. The price of U.S. oil was down $2.25 to just under $59 a barrel in midday trading on Wednesday at the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price of crude accounts for about half the cost of making gasoline.

The EIA, which is the Energy Department's forecasting arm, expects regular unleaded gasoline to average $2.40 a gallon in the current quarter, 6 cents higher than a year earlier. The agency's revised monthly forecast comes out next week.

In the EIA's new weekly survey, West Coast service stations had the most expensive gasoline by region, up 0.2 cent to $2.58 a gallon. Among major cities, Seattle had the highest pump price at $2.66 a gallon, up 1.7 cents from a week ago.

By region, the cheapest gasoline was found on the Gulf Coast at $2.20 a gallon, down 1.3 cents from a week ago. Denver had the most affordable fuel among surveyed cities at $2.15 a gallon, unchanged from the prior week.

The EIA also reported that pump prices were down a penny to $2.29 in Cleveland, down 0.8 cent to $2.33 in Boston, down 2.7 cents to $2.34 in Chicago, down 0.8 cent to $2.39 in New York City, down 0.3 cent to $2.39 in Miami and up 0.1 cent to $2.59 in Los Angeles,

Separately, the EIA said that the price truckers pay for diesel fuel fell by 1.6 cents to $2.58 a gallon, up 13.8 cents from the same time last year.

The West Coast had the priciest diesel, down 0.3 cent to $2.85 a gallon. Diesel was cheapest along the Gulf Coast, down 1.4 cents to $2.50 a gallon.

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