Retail gasoline prices edging higher as refiners cut production and start preparations to make a summer blend of fuel, which is more expensive to make. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- The retail price for gasoline in the United States is moving higher at its fastest clip in four months as seasonal and market pressures mount, analysis finds.
Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $1.76, an increase of 0.5 percent overnight and 3.1 percent, or 6 cents, higher than last week.
Tuesday's price hike marks the seventh straight day for an increase, the longest stretch since early November.
"Gas prices are moving higher in many parts of the country as refinery maintenance season gets underway and as some refineries cut production in response to abundant supplies," AAA said in a weekly retail analysis. "Swings in gas prices at the regional level are typical for this time of year as many refineries conduct maintenance in advance of the busy summer driving season."
Refiners in February started cutting production of gasoline to influence a market characterized by high supply and weaker seasonal demand. With winter fading, most are now starting to prepare to make a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to produce because of the tighter environmental safeguards in place during warmer months.
Crude oil prices, which represent about half of the price at the pump, have also been a factor on retail gasoline prices. The price for Brent crude oil is up 9 percent from one week ago, adding insult to injury at retail gasoline centers for most consumers in the United States.
"The recent uptick at the gas pump comes as crude oil prices have rallied, and so far, maintained that upward movement," Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, said in an emailed statement.
Despite the recent spike, gas prices are relatively low with Tuesday's national average about 27 percent, or 66 cents, lower than this date in 2015. Arizona posts the lowest state average price for Tuesday at $1.53 per gallon.