AAA: Gas prices hit highest point since January

gas pricesGas prices in much of the Mid-Atlantic region have mirrored the rise in the national average this past week, reaching the highest level since January.

The region will switch from winter-blend to the more expensive summer-blend gasoline by April 10, leading to price increases at the pump.

“Rising gas prices, an annual rite of spring, came a few weeks later than usual,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The combination of the switchover to summer-blend gas and crude oil closing above $50 all week, has pushed prices higher at the pump.”

Today’s national average for regular unleaded gasoline is $2.39, seven cents more than a week ago, nine cents more compared to one month ago and 35 cents more than the same date last year. This trend of rising pump prices is likely to continue as refinery maintenance wraps up, summer-blend gasoline becomes available and driving demand increases this spring.

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil was up $1.64 from last week to settle at $52.24 per barrel. Crude has closed above $50 each day this week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a surprising increase of 1.57 million barrels in crude inventories, bringing total U.S. stocks to a record 535.5 million barrels.

The latest activities oversees in Syria have not caused immediate movement in gas or oil prices but how the situation develops over the next few weeks could change that. Reports that Iraq plans to increase its production cut compliance as a part of OPEC’s output agreement furthered speculation that OPEC and non-OPEC producers may extend their agreement beyond the original six-month deadline of June. U.S. oil production is seen as a threat to the reduction of still-swelled global inventories. Even though most analysts expect OPEC to extend the cuts deeper into 2017, rising U.S. output stands to snuff out price rallies.