NEW YORK – U.S. average retail gasoline prices rose over the past two weeks, though at a slower pace than seen last month, reflecting strong demand and production shortfalls at refineries, according to an industry analyst.
The national average for self-serve regular unleaded gas was nearly $2.61 a gallon on March 23, up about 5.6 cents per gallon in the past two weeks, according to the nationwide Lundberg survey of about 7,000 gas stations.
The price of filling up is 11 cents a gallon higher than it was last year, but still 42 cents below the record high reached on August 11 last year, analyst Trilby Lundberg said.
"We had more refining capacity events than usual, and this tightened supplies," Lundberg said. "At the same time, demand has been strong for this time of year and it's risen seasonally after January."
Lundberg also noted the early start of daylight savings time in the United States may also have encouraged Americans to drive more.
Gasoline prices had risen about 37 cents a gallon since the end of January, but the most recent move marks a smaller increase and prices may soon begin to decline, she said.
Gasoline stocks have been sufficient to offset production shortfalls caused by planned and unplanned maintenance. Prices, though, were not high enough to attract foreign imports.
Lundberg forecasts that prices should again trend down. Indeed some individual cities in the latest survey already reported lower prices.
"If crude prices don't rise further, the gasoline price surge should come to an end very soon," she said. "The conditions for a price rise at pump should be reversed, though the price of crude is a wild card."
At $3.19 a gallon, San Francisco had the country's highest average price for self-serve regular unleaded gas. The lowest price was $2.34 a gallon in St. Louis.