Gasoline prices slide; Tucson's down 2¢

Gasoline prices are on a summer slide, giving U.S. drivers a break as they set out for the beach and other vacation spots for the Fourth of July.

The national average for a gallon has fallen for 21 days straight and is now below $3.50 for the first time since February.

Arizona's average statewide price is $3.47 a gallon, down by 3 cents from last week. And the average price in Tucson is $3.24, a drop of two pennies per gallon since last week, AAA Arizona says.

The reason: Oil prices have been relatively stable, and refineries are turning out more gasoline after completing springtime maintenance, AAA says.

The drop may be interrupted temporarily because oil prices spiked Wednesday on fears that the turmoil in Egypt would disrupt the flow of crude in the Mideast. Analysts, however, don't expect a sharp increase at the pump, because global oil supplies are ample and U.S. refineries are producing plenty of gas.

2 reports indicate steady job growth

U.S. companies stepped up hiring last month, a private survey showed Wednesday. And the government says fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week.

The latest data point to steady job growth, an encouraging sign ahead of Friday's government report on June employment.

30-yr. mortgage rate falls after sharp rise

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week after last week's surge.

Freddie Mac said Wednesday that the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 4.29 percent, down from 4.46 percent last week.

The Associated Press