It may not make much sense, given that the economy remains weak, but the cost of filling up your car is about to go higher.
Seasonal influences are strong this time of year and account for much of the expected increase that many analysts say will push gasoline to a nationwide average of at least $3 per gallon this spring.
"There is no legitimate fundamental reason for higher prices, but it is March 1st, so we have to expect to see them," Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover said Monday in his report. "Reasons have a way of materializing at this time of year."
Wholesale prices for the April gasoline contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange are about 10 to 12 cents higher than the March contract that expired Friday. Much of the rise is due to refiners switching to more expensive summer blends of gasoline designed to meet tougher pollution standards. The higher prices should make their way to the pump over the next few weeks.
Gasoline prices were flat overnight, rising 0.1 cents Monday to a national average of $2.705 per gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.
Prices have moved higher the past two weeks, approaching the 2010 high of $2.7583 per gallon set on Jan. 14. In the past week prices climbed 5.7 cents and are now 78.4 cents higher than year ago levels.
The Energy Information Administration will release figures on nationwide retail gasoline prices later Monday.
Prices have been going up even though the economy remains weak and demand for fuel is tepid.
The total number of miles driven in the U.S. last year was about flat with 2008 and below 2004 levels for the second year in a row, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Climbing oil prices also are a big factor in higher gasoline price. Crude prices are more than twice what they were a year ago when the U.S. was mired in the Great Recession. Investors look for global demand to pick up as the economy improves, especially in China and other developing countries.
Oil prices stayed around $80 a barrel Monday on the NYMEX. Benchmark crude for April delivery rose 17 cents to $79.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, prices peaked at $80.62. On Friday, the contract added $1.49 to settle at $79.66.
In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil rose 1.25 cents to $2.0478 a gallon, and gasoline gained 0.32 cent at $2.1911 a gallon. Natural gas prices fell 5.3 cents to $4.760 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was up 31 cents at $77.90 on the ICE futures exchange.
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