While gas prices have crept up in recent weeks, prices remain 21-cents per gallon below this time last year, according to AAA.
So far this summer, gasoline prices hit a low of just under $3.33 a gallon on July 2, but have been steadily rising throughout the month.
In Delaware, the average price is $3.53, according to AAA. At this time last year, it was $3.73.
"Gas prices have risen steadily since early July and might not retreat until after August," said Jana L. Tidwell, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "That said, crude oil has returned to trade in the $80 per barrel range (down from the $90 per barrel range last week), which means prices at the pump should stay where they are for at least the time being."
The national average price for a gallon of regular self-service gasoline was $3.49 Friday, up 4 cents for the week, yet down 11 cents from month-ago prices and 45 cents below the year-to-date peak price of $3.94 on April 5.
Since the July 2 low ($3.33), the national average retail price has now increased for 23 of 25 consecutive days and has only declined for four days so far this month. This compares to July of last year when national prices rose 17 cents and increased for all but six days during the month.
In recent months gasoline prices have roughly followed the cost of crude oil, which rose well above $100 a barrel in February and March, only to fall back on weaker economic expectations around the globe. After dropping to $77.69 a barrel on June 28, oil prices jumped above the $90 per barrel mark, but have since dropped to the $87-a-barrel level.
Global concerns, including sovereign debt issues in the euro zone, signs of slowing growth in China and bearish economic data in the U.S. have weighed on markets. In addition, geopolitical concerns with Iran have escalated in recent weeks sending crude oil prices upward.
This week crude oil prices were boosted by a pledge by the European Central Bank to protect the euro zone from further debt crisis, as well as a drop in U.S. jobless-benefit claims (fell 35,000 to 353,000 claims, far lower than the forecasted 380,000 claims).
Crude oil prices rose for a fourth straight day on Friday to settle at $90.13, on hopes for more stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve after data showed U.S. economic growth slowed in the second quarter as expected.
A rise in gas prices during the month of July has motorists wondering if the trend will continue into August. Prices at the pump have risen over 5 percent in the past month, yet remain nearly 6 percent below year-ago levels. Tom Kloza, Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) chief oil analyst and AAA partner, notes we typically see prices at the pump fluctuate during the summer months. However, Kloza says he's "confident we'll see a drop lower between Labor Day and Election Day."
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