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Analysts expect lower gas prices

Increased domestic oil production is expected to help drive gas prices at the pump lower this year.

Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press/File 2012

Increased domestic oil production is expected to help drive gas prices at the pump lower this year.

NEW YORK — Hamburgers, health care, and taxes are all set to take a bigger bite out of the family budget this year. But drivers’ annual gas bills are expected to drop for the first time in four years.

Forecasters say ample oil supplies and weak US demand will keep a lid on prices. The lows will be lower and the highs won’t be so high, compared with a year ago. The average price of a gallon of gasoline will fall 5 percent to $3.44, according to the Energy Department.

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That would still be the third-highest average price ever. But a discount of 19 cents per gallon from 2012 would save the typical household $205 this year and free up $25 billion that could go instead to restaurants, malls, or movie theaters.

‘‘It’s a little benefit to the economy, and it’s a little more reason the Fed doesn’t have to worry about inflation,’’ said James Hamilton, an economist at the University of California San Diego who studies energy prices.

This year, global oil demand is expected to rise slightly again, but increased production, especially in the United States, should keep supplies ample.

The current average retail price of gasoline is $3.31 per gallon, 6 cents lower than last year, according to AAA and Wright Express.

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