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Gas prices may be on the rise

/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. retail gasoline prices may bounce higher in the coming weeks as late-summer driving demand picks up — putting an end to a long price decline at the pumps, the American Automobile Association (AAA) said Tuesday.

“FUEL CONSUMPTION IS now starting to increase just as crude oil prices have moved higher,” the motorists association said in a release. “This could cause somewhat higher gasoline prices as the summer driving season comes to an end.”

The nation’s pump prices have stabilized in the $1.35 to $1.40 a gallon range since late July, following a precipitous drop from all-time highs of $1.72 in June, according to the AAA daily survey of more than 60,000 service stations. The average price on Tuesday was $1.39 a gallon.

The early summer price-slide was tied to full-out refinery production and signs that a sluggish U.S. economy was slicing into summer driving plans.

U.S. gasoline demand over the past four weeks, however, has climbed nearly 5 percent ahead of the same time last year, averaging more than nine million barrels per day, according to the Department of Energy.

Over the same period, crude oil futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) have risen from the $26 a barrel range to roughly $28 a barrel, due in part to a fresh production cut agreement by producer group OPEC.

As usual, the highest gasoline prices were seen in the West at an average of $1.48 a gallon — down 9.4 cents since mid-July. The cheapest gasoline was in the Southeast at $1.28 a gallon, down three cents since mid-July, the AAA said.

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