Coronavirus fears, oil price war causes gas to dip below $2 a gallon in parts of NC

Ana Rivera Image
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Coronavirus concerns causing gas prices to drop
Experts say people are traveling less with the coronavirus spreading and that's bringing gas prices down.

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- Several economists are theorizing that coronavirus fears, along with an oil price standoff between exporting countries, are having an impact on gas prices.

Experts believe the emergence of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is causing consumers to travel less, bringing the demand down.

In North Carolina, GasBuddy showed totals of $1.77 per gallon (regular) at several locations in Wake Forest, including Sheetz, Mobil and Murphy USA stations. Those are among the lowest prices in the state.

Murphy Express stations in Sanford ($1.89) and Zebulon ($1.90) also had lower totals.

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Prices on South Saunders Street in Raleigh were not as a low, checking in at around $2.19 and $2.16, still well below AAA's national average price of $2.38. North Carolina's average gas price is $2.20.

AAA's county-by-county map shows the cheapest average prices in the ABC11 viewing area in Nash, Franklin, Wilson, Wayne and Edgecombe counties.

In Michigan, gas prices are down 12 cents from the previous week. In Ohio, prices were below $2 per gallon.

COVID-19 is threatening the global economy, presenting what some are calling "the greatest threat since the financial crisis."

Dr. Mike Walden, a distinguished professor of economics at North Carolina State University, said the price of oil could have huge consequences on the global economy.

"If oil companies don't make sufficient profits, that's a big deal in the world," Walden said. "Two of the three largest companies in the world are oil companies."

Global stock markets and oil prices plunged Monday after a fight among Russia and Saudi Arabia jolted investors who already were on edge about the surging costs of a virus outbreak.

According to reporting by the Associated Press, during a meeting of The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Saudi Arabia asked Russia and other counties not part of OPEC to cut oil production. However, Russia did not agree, and Saudi Arabia said it would ramp up production in response.

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"The virus risks giving a further blow to a global economy that was already weakened by trade and political tensions," Laurence Boone, the OECD's chief economist, said while presenting the findings during a teleconference Monday.

Last week, two coronavirus cases were confirmed in North Carolina with one in Wake County and one in Chatham County.

Walden said the driving factor in the economic situation is uncertainty--no one knows how long the outbreak will last.

"The economy has been in good shape. We're going into this in good shape," Walden said. "Which means that once things settle down, once the virus is contained, once it goes away, we should see some major rebounds in the stock market."

Walden said it isn't clear when gas prices will rise again, but prices should continue to drop this week before they rebound.

READ: More coronavirus coverage here