Gasoline prices jump sharply

The U.S. Dept. of Energy's Energy Information Agency's latest report states that retail gasoline prices are up strongly for the third week in a row.

EIA’s latest weekly gasoline price survey, released on March 18, showed the average U.S. retail price for regular gasoline increasing 6.5 cents to 128.8 cents per gallon, the highest price since October 15, 2001. The national average price has now risen 17.2 cents per gallon in the past three weeks, the second largest increase over a 3-week period since EIA began our weekly survey in August 1990. If the average price for regular gasoline rises more than 4.3 cents per gallon on March 25, it will be the largest 4-week price increase we have ever seen in our survey.

Average retail gasoline prices were relatively flat nationally through January and February, and actually declined slightly in the Midwest, but prices in California rose more than 20 cents per gallon during that period. During the past 3 weeks, the strongest gains have been in the Midwest (21.6 cents) and California (19.4 cents), while prices on the East Coast have risen 14.5 cents per gallon. The increases appear to reflect a variety of factors, including rising crude oil prices, seasonal pressures, declining inventories, and refinery problems in some areas. While EIA does not forecast a return to gasoline prices as high as those seen the last two years, the seasonal increase has begun somewhat earlier than usual, and is expected to continue over the coming weeks.

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