The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. filling stations increased 3.74 cents over the past two weeks and may have peaked, according to Trilby Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Survey Inc.
The price jump to $3.9671 a gallon covers the period ended April 6 and is based on the Camarillo, California-based company’s survey of about 2,500 stations.
“Price hikes at the pump have been losing steam for weeks,” Lundberg said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Crude oil prices have slipped and if they don’t rebound in the very near future, gasoline prices will peak very soon, if they haven’t already.”
The highest price in the lower 48 U.S. states among the cities surveyed was in Chicago, where the average was $4.45 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where customers paid an average of $3.66.
On Long Island, regular gasoline was $4.14 a gallon, while Los Angeles-area retail stations averaged $4.27, according to Lundberg.
“The price spikes had been led by places like Chicago and Los Angeles,” Lundberg said. “Now, we see some of these prices tumbling.”
Gasoline on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 1.3 percent to $3.3405 a gallon in the two weeks ended April 5.
“Compared to the magnitude of recent price spikes, this is small,” Lundberg said. The increase was the smallest rise for the motor fuel since the two weeks between Jan. 6 and Jan. 20, according to Lundberg Survey. A decline in U.S. oil prices over the past two weeks has helped, she said.
The front-month crude contract on the Nymex fell $3.56 to $103.31 a barrel during that period, while Brent oil in London declined $1.70 to $123.43. Nymex trading was closed April 6 for the Good Friday holiday.
Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange have climbed 24 percent this year, the best performance in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI index of 24 commodities.
Prices had surged on speculation that refinery closings would tighten supplies and as crude rose on concern that tensions with Iran over its nuclear program would reduce oil supplies. New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude is up 4.5 percent in 2012, and Brent oil on the ICE Futures Europe exchange has gained 15 percent.
Summer Driving Season
With the U.S. jobs market and manufacturing showing improvement, higher pump prices before the peak summer driving season have become an issue in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. The Obama administration has said it’s monitoring prices in 360 U.S. cities to guard against fraud or price manipulation.
The U.S. Senate rejected a Democratic bill to repeal about $24 billion in tax breaks to oil companies on March 29. Republicans have proposed legislation to deal with rising U.S. gas prices by studying the effect of environmental rules.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles fell 1.46 million barrels to a 10- week low of 221.9 million in the week ended March 30, according to Energy Department data. Gasoline demand over the prior four weeks was 3.8 percent below a year earlier.
Retail consumption this year through March 30 was 5.6 percent lower than the same period in 2011, according to MasterCard Inc. (MA:US)’s SpendingPulse report on April 3. Fuel use over the previous four weeks was 5.9 percent lower than a year earlier, a record 54th consecutive decline.
Oil may decrease this week after the Federal Reserve signaled it may refrain from more monetary stimulus and U.S. inventories surged the most since 2008, a Bloomberg News survey showed.
Sixteen of 30 analysts, or 57 percent, forecast oil will fall through April. Five respondents, or 18 percent, predicted prices will rise and seven estimated there will be little change. Last week, 62 percent expected a decline.
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