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Gas prices trend upward ahead of weekend

A weekend trip to find some respite from summer's heat may cost you a penny or two more for a gallon of gasoline.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A weekend trip to find some respite from summer's heat may cost you a penny or two more for a gallon of gasoline.

The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline hit $2.723 Friday, one penny more than a week ago and about 2 cents more than a month ago, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. It's nearly a quarter higher than it was a year ago.

The highest prices, averaging from $2.853 to $3.492, are mostly in the West, while the lowest prices, from $2.475 to $2.578, can be found in Texas, the South and parts of the Midwest.

Yet pump prices have likely peaked for the summer and most experts believe they will remain fairly steady until Labor Day with most consumers still worried about losing their jobs and a slow economic recovery.

"It seems that every other day there's different data that comes out that suggests that the economy is picking up or the economy's not picking up," said Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at Oil Price Information Service. "There's no real consensus. It's kind of confused out there and I think that's both the stock market and the futures market for energy."

The Consumer Price Index, a government inflation barometer, showed energy prices fell 2.9 percent in June for the second straight month. Gasoline prices led the decline with a 4.5 percent drop. Prices for electricity and fuel oil also fell.

More disappointing economic news arrived Friday as a twice-monthly survey from the University of Michigan and Reuters found that consumer gloom is increasing. An index of consumer sentiment compiled from the survey fell to 66.5 in early July from 76.

And stocks are in retreat after Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America said they earned more in the second quarter but they are seeing lower trading revenue because of a stock market's plunge in the spring.

In early trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil prices slid 78 cents to $74.84 a barrel in reaction to the economic news.

"Oil remains attached to equities for now and as a result, economic guidance should continue to rule," Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.

In other Nymex trading in August contracts, heating oil lost 0.14 cent to $2.0169 a gallon, gasoline fell 0.9 cent to $2.0517 a gallon and natural gas fell 4.5 cents to $4.541 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 66 cents to $75.53 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.