There was the slightest of relief to be found at the pumps today, with prices declining by 1 cent, on average, in South Jersey (to $2.53) and at the national level (to $2.68).

AAA Mid-Atlantic added that the average for a gallon of regular no-lead was unchanged, at $2.74, in the five-county Philadelphia area.

A year ago, the average was $4.15 in the Philly area, $3.98 in South Jersey, and $4.07 in the nation overall.

At the diesel pumps, the average was down 1 cent in the Philly area (to $2.82), and unchanged in South Jersey ($2.50) and ($2.63).

Meanwhile, oil prices were volatile, as continued uncertainty about the global economy and demand for crude were offset by the weaker dollar, which drew some speculators back to commodities.

Earlier in the day, sharp declines in Asian stock markets, coming after Monday's drop on Wall Street, had helped push prices down. By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for August delivery was up 27 cents to $67.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract hit a low of $66.37 before rebounding.

On Monday, it dropped $2.52 to settle at $67.50.

A drop from an eight-month intraday high of $73.23 earlier this month accelerated after the World Bank said it expected the global economy to shrink by 2.9 percent this year, much worse than its March prediction for a contraction of 1.7 percent.