Gas Prices Keep Climbing; Now Above $4 in Six States

Gasoline prices rose again Friday and are
now averaging more than $4 in six states and Washington, D.C. Oil had
its biggest gain in three weeks and natural gas prices also rose.


Retail gasoline prices
were up a penny on Friday to a national average of $3.831 per gallon,
according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

The average price for a gallon of regular is now above $4 in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois and New York.

Gasoline
has jumped by almost 56 cents per gallon since Jan. 1 and is the
highest ever for this time of year. That’s costing drivers an extra
$11.20 to fill up a 20-gallon tank. Experts are forecasting that the
nationwide average could reach $4.25 by the end of April.

For
now, consumers aren’t seeing similar increases in other areas. The
Labor Department said Friday that excluding energy prices, inflation
stayed mild in February. Food prices were unchanged for the first time
in 19 months.

Yet there are signs that high
gas prices are weighing on consumer confidence and the growth that fuels
job creation. Economists fear consumers could cut spending on other
goods, from appliances to furniture to electronics and vacations.

Gas
prices are rising primarily because of high oil prices. On Friday oil
markets were still reacting to reports a day earlier that the U.S. and
the U.K. planned to release some of their strategic crude reserves.
Although the White House denied the reports, independent analyst Andrew
Lipow said traders were left to worry that Western nations are preparing
for a prolonged standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.

“What do they know that they’re not telling?” Lipow said.

Tensions
with Iran, and the threat to oil supplies in the Middle East, are a big
reason that oil has risen about 7 percent since Jan. 1 and almost 15
percent since October.

In New York trading,
benchmark oil for April delivery rose $1.95, or about 2 percent, to
finish at $107.06, the biggest gain since Feb. 24. Brent crude for May
delivery rose $3.21, or 2.6 percent, to end at $125.81 per barrel on the
ICE Futures exchange in London.

Natural gas, which is trading at prices not seen since 2002, rose 4.7 cents to finish at $2.326 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Heating oil rose 5.94 cents to end at $3.2819 per gallon and gasoline futures gained 6.84 cents to finish at $3.3569 per gallon.

Alex Kennedy in Singapore and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.

SOURCE: The Associated Press