Pump prices may tick up slightly with rise in oil

Drivers may pay a couple of cents more for gasoline once a three-day rally in oil prices works its way to the pump.

Still, analysts expect the increase to be short-lived, tempered by diminished demand from consumers and still-ample supplies. Most agree that prices should decline steadily until New Year's Eve.

The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline rose 0.3 cent overnight to $2.692 a gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. The price is nearly 2 cents less than it was a week ago and 22.3 cents higher than it was a year ago.

Motorists in the West, parts of the Rockies, Illinois and New York paid the highest prices, ranging from $2.818 a gallon to $3.484 a gallon. The cheapest prices, between $2.499 a gallon and $2.575 a gallon, were in Texas, New Jersey, and in parts of the Midwest and the South.

Most analysts expect prices to rise an average of a penny or two within the next week. The amount will depend on how long oil prices rally. Since settling at $76.18 per a barrel in New York Tuesday, prices have rallied almost 7 percent.

The other variable for oil prices is consumer demand, which continues to be a down arrow. Demand has fallen since the summer driving season ended on Labor Day weekend.

"It doesn't appear that gasoline demand is going to be picking up anytime soon. Certainly this isn't the season where we would expect it to," Tradition Energy analyst Addison Armstrong said. "It's not going to create a large change in the pump price."

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, said the latest increase aside, drivers should fret about pump prices.

"Motorists should not look for any shocks at the pump this week, this month or really for the rest of the year," he said.

Oil prices rose Friday on mixed global economic news from China and the United States.

A survey showed Chinese manufacturing growth picked up its pace last month, which was an indication that its economic recovery was on track.

In the United States, the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index indicated an expansion in factory activity was slowing. Other reports showed personal income and spending both rose more than expected in August.

Benchmark oil for November delivery added $1.22 to $81.12 a barrel in early trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It's the first time the price has topped $80 a barrel since early August.

In other Nymex trading in November contracts, heating oil rose 2.19 cents to $2.2897 a gallon, gasoline gained 3.69 cents to $2.0730 a gallon and natural gas fell 4.7 cents to $3.825 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose $13.0 to $83.38 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

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Associated Press writer Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.