For the past year or so, U.S. drivers have enjoyed low gas prices.

That's been particularly true over the past couple of months, as gas prices have dropped closer to $2.00 per gallon around the country.

Lower gas prices put more money into consumers' pockets, in theory allowing them to spend more on other things.

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But all of this cheap gas apparently isn't having the economic impact some analysts hoped for, according to The Washington Post.

Cheap oil can put money back into consumers' pockets much the way a tax cut would. This year's drop in oil prices is estimated to be equivalent to a $290 billion cut.

That's encouraged some positive predictions about the economic impact of low gas prices.

Fuel gauge

Fuel gauge

Back in July, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen said the economy might "snap back more quickly" thanks in part to a boost in consumer spending from cheap gas.

But that energetic reaction hasn't occurred.

Instead, the economy slowed to a "lackluster" annual rate of two percent in the third quarter, according to The Washington Post.

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So what happened?

It's likely that consumers are saving the money they are no longer spending on gasoline, rather than using it for other things.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal savings rate was 5.6 percent and 5.5 percent in October and November respectively--the highest rates in three years.

Gas pump

Gas pump

Low oil prices also benefit businesses, but many are reportedly opting to boost profits instead of lowering consumer prices.

And while cheap oil should be a good thing for both consumers and businesses, it also retards the oil industry's capital-spending plans--which puts a dent in the country's overall business-investment levels.

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Nonetheless, the economy would likely be worse off if oil prices were higher.

And there's one area of the economy that doesn't seem to be affected by consumers' tendency to save rather than spend.

Low gas prices have been a boon to new-car sales, which have been quite robust throughout the year.


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