Filling up the family car's gas tank is getting more expensive as the 4th of July weekend nears, but that won't stop a lot of people from hitting the road.
Gasoline prices rose 1.2 cents Thursday to a national average of $2.753 per gallon, according t AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Pump prices are 2.7 cents per gallon lower than month-ago levels and 7.7 cents higher than a year ago.
Prices have jumped 4.6 cents in the past week. AAA expects gas to average between $2.70 and $2.80 per gallon for the holiday. That's about the same as the Memorial Day weekend.
Despite higher prices, AAA said the number of Americans taking a trip this July 4th weekend is expected to increase 17.1 percent from 2009 levels, when the country was mired in the recession. Nearly 35 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home.
About 90 percent of travelers will reach their destination by car, a 17.7 percent increase from a year ago.
AAA has said higher gas prices don't keep people from driving until they approach the $3 per gallon level — a sort of psychological barrier.
At $2.80 per gallon, a typical motorist using about 50 gallons of fuel per month will spend about $140.
Natural gas prices, which have been falling all week, lost more ground after the government reported Thursday that stockpiles increased last week as expected. The total amount of gas in storage is down slightly from a year ago, but 13 percent above the five-year average.
Oil prices rose slightly, with demand still lackluster in the gradual economic recovery. Benchmark crude for August delivery added 16 cents to settle at $76.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell 1.12 cents to settle at $2.0572 a gallon, gasoline gained 1.12 cents to settle at $2.0935 a gallon and natural gas was off 6.6 cents to settle at $4.748 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Brent crude rose 20 cents to settle at $76.47 on the ICE futures exchange.