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Not much overnight action at the gas pumps

Pump prices didn't show much movement today, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Pump prices didn't show much movement today, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The average in the five-county Philadelphia area for a gallon of regular no-lead remained at $1.74, although that was about $1.32 cheaper than a year ago.

The South Jersey average also held steady, at $1.52, which was $1.31 cheaper than a year ago.

The national average remained at $1.66, also $1.31 less than a year ago.

Even diesel prices didn't show much movement: The Philly-area average was unchanged at $2.74; South Jersey's dropped a cent, to $2.42; and the national average was down 3 cents, to $2.49.

Oil prices tumbled close to $38 a barrel today on fresh evidence of weakness in the U.S. housing market and a shrinking gross domestic product that suggests the recession may be worsening.

A report by the Commerce Department showed that sales of new homes fell in November to the slowest pace in nearly 18 years, while new home prices dropped by the biggest amount in eight months.

"The energy markets are reacting first and foremost to bad economic news, and it seems like they're almost waiting for something bad to occur," said oil analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover.

A steady outpouring of gloomy economic news has pushed to the background events that over the summer may have led to price spikes, like OPEC's announcement this month of unprecedented production cuts, Beutel said.

Prices have fallen 73 percent since July, with massive job layoffs and weak consumer spending eating away at energy use.

Light sweet crude for February delivery fell more than 4 percent, or $1.66, to $38.25 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices fell as low as $38.07 earlier in the day.