Crude oil and gasoline prices eased Friday after Rita was downgraded to a category 4 Hurricane.

Prices also declined when the storm's predicted path shifted slightly away from the center of the U.S. oil refining industry to a less populated part of the Gulf Coast.

But investors remain on watch because hurricanes are unpredictable, and the "weaker" storm is still just as strong as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated nearby New Orleans, killed more than 1,000 people, and damaged key parts of the U.S. energy industry.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, world oil prices and gasoline prices spiked to all-time highs. Consumers and analysts say they are worried that serious damage from Hurricane Rita could drive prices to new record highs, damaging economic growth.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Bloomberg.