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Have Gas Prices Bottomed Out?

WASHINGTON -- Some industry players speculate the price of gasoline has bottomed out, as the U.S. average price for gasoline rose more than a dime over the last week to the highest level in six weeks.

The national price for regular unleaded gasoline averaged $1.78 a gallon Monday, as higher crude oil costs were passed on to motorist, according to a Reuters report. That number is still $1.28 cheaper than a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The recent jump at the pump reflects the rise in crude oil prices, which approached $50 a barrel last week. However, consumers may get a break soon, as oil fell sharply since then to near $37 a barrel in Monday trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"There has been an incredible crash [in retail gas prices] that echoed the incredible rise that occurred during the first half of last year," survey editor Trilby Lundberg told Reuters. "The price has finally bottomed out."

The chances are strong that U.S. drivers will not see dramatic rises or falls in retail gas prices in coming months, Lundberg said, adding the economic slowdown would crimp demand and keep prices low at the same time that OPEC members attempt to implement production cuts and drive prices higher.

"There's a strong chance there will be a period of less volatility in the price because these factors are offsetting one another," Lundberg said.

In the EIA's weekly price survey, gasoline was most expensive on the West Coast at $1.95 a gallon, up 10.8 cents from last week. San Francisco had the highest city price at $2.01, up 9.4 cents.

Rocky Mountain states had the lowest regional price at $1.56 a gallon, up 6.8 cents. Denver had the lowest city pump price, up 6.5 cents at $1.53.

Reuters also reported gas prices were up 11.1 cents to $1.99 in Seattle; up 10 cents to $1.97 in Chicago; up 12.4 cents to $1.96 in Los Angeles; up 7.5 cents to $1.92 in Cleveland; and up 9.3 cents to $1.88 in Miami. Retails rose 9.1 cents at $1.73 in New York City and 6.6 cents to $1.69 in Boston.

Separately, the average price for diesel fuel rose 2.3 cents to $2.31 a gallon, down $1.01 from a year earlier, according to the EIA report.
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