Drivers across the country woke up to higher prices at the gas pump as retail gasoline rose overnight.
The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gained half a cent Monday from Sunday at $2.742, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.
In its weekly survey of gas pump prices released Monday afternoon, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said the average price for a gallon of regular rose 2.7 cents from a week ago, to $2.749. California drivers paid the most at $3.13 a gallon, while motorists in Gulf Coast states paid an average of $2.59.
Wholesale gasoline prices have risen steadily since the beginning of July. Analysts see pump prices rising by a few more cents a gallon before leveling off.
Oil prices were unchanged on Monday after drifting above $79 a barrel earlier in the session. Benchmark crude settled at $78.98 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil prices held their ground despite the retreat of Tropical Storm Bonnie as a threat to production and supply in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil prices are near the 11-week high of $79.60 reached on Friday, which has left some analysts scratching their heads.
"Traders and investors continue to like buying oil, for reasons that are not immediately or readily apparent to those steeped in fundamental knowledge," Cameron Hanover said in a note to investors. The energy consultants said some support for oil prices also comes from positive earnings reports.
Stocks rose, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up about 70 points in late-morning trading. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 also rose. Oil traders often look to equities for signs of overall investor sentiment. On Monday stocks took their cue from better-than-expected new home sales and a stronger profit outlook from FedEx Corp.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil lost 0.79 cent to settle at $2.0426 a gallon, gasoline gave up 1.64 cents to settle at $2.1058 a gallon and natural gas rose 3.2 cents to settle at $4.612 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude added 5 cents to settle at $77.50 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
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