Pulling into the corner gas station cost more again Tuesday, with gasoline prices in Utah and nationally up week-over-week by the most since February 2011.
Prices are tracking crude oil futures that last week capped the longest stretch of weekly advances in more than eight years.
Regular gasoline in the U.S. Tuesday jumped 17 cents, or 5.4 percent, from a week earlier, to $3.53 a gallon, the biggest gain since Feb. 28, 2011, according to data compiled by the Energy Information Administration, an Energy Department agency.
In Utah, a gallon of unleaded averaged $3.15, up 11 cents from last week and 22 cents from a month ago.
Although national analysts pointed to rising oil prices as the key driver behind the spike in fuel costs, AAA Utah's Rolayne Fairclough was less certain.
"We're not sure exactly why we're seeing these increases," the travel services company spokeswoman said. They are "dramatic ... without significant events, such as a hurricane or unrest in North Africa. Having said that, Utah is still the third-lowest average price in the country."
Wyoming was lowest, at $2.95 per gallon, with Montana just behind at $3.04.
Although Utahns may be feeling less of a pinch, fuel prices are having an impact everywhere. On Monday, the Energy Department said that U.S. drivers spent 4 percent of their pretax income on gasoline last year, the second-highest percentage in 30 years.
"People have become used to it and tried to be judicious in their spending," Fairclough said. But "we've seen there are ramifications for these high prices."
The per-gallon increases come at a time when demand actually is falling, down 1.6 percent from the previous week, to 8.5 million barrels a day, MasterCard Inc. said. The four-week average was 0.1 percent higher than a year earlier, but it's been down from the previous year every week except one since March 18, 2011.
Some of that could be related to seasonal factors, said Fairclough. "Traditionally, this time of year demand is down. You don't have people engaging in discretionary travel as much during the first part of the year."
At the very least, pump prices are being influenced by oil's rise. Crude futures are up more than $10 a barrel since mid-December and have increased eight weeks in a row, matching a streak that ended in August 2004.
Benchmark oil for March delivery rose 47 cents Tuesday, to finish at $96.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark used to set prices for oil used by many U.S. refineries, gained 92 cents to end at $116.52 per barrel in London on Tuesday.
Data showing rising activity in the manufacturing and services sectors in the 17 European Union countries using the euro supported oil prices. And a U.S. report indicated that the services sector continues to expand.
Gas prices in Utah
Tuesday • $3.15
Week ago • $3.04
Month ago • $2.93
Year ago • $3.08
Record high • $4.22 (July 18, 2008)
Tuesday • $3.53
Week ago • $3.36
Month ago • $3.29
Year ago • $3.48
Record high • $4.11 ( July 17, 2008)
Find low-priced gasoline
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