SAN FRANCISCO — Retail gasoline jumped to the highest level in more than eight months as gasoline stockpiles shrink amid increasing demand for the motor-fuel.
Regular, unleaded gasoline at U.S. filling stations averaged $3.651 a gallon yesterday, up 5.5 cents from a week ago and 3.1 percent above year-earlier levels, the Energy Information Administration said on its Web site. Prices rose the most on the U.S. West Coast, known as the PADD 5 region, where gasoline surged 9.7 cents to $3.977 a gallon.
Pump prices have climbed for 10 straight weeks as refinery maintenance limits supplies and weather delays deliveries of ethanol by rail. Gasoline inventories reached a three-year seasonal low last week as the nation kicks off its summer driving season, which typically runs from April to September.
Prices were up “on news of longer-than-expected refinery maintenance and possible supply problems with the ethanol additive for gasoline,” Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California in Los Angeles, said in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately, these price hikes are happening just as many Southern Californians are getting away for spring break.”
Retail gasoline is expected to peak at $3.66 a gallon in May before declining for the rest of the year, the EIA said in a summer fuels outlook April 8.
“The retail price projections reflect falling prices for crude oil,” the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said in the report.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark grade, has gained 2.1 percent this month. The contract for May delivery fell 0.3 percent Tuesday to close at $103.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
May-delivery gasoline futures advanced 0.1 percent to $3.0421 a gallon.
U.S. gasoline consumption climbed 3.3 percent to 9 million barrels a day in the week ended April 4, a three-year seasonal high, data compiled by the EIA show. Gasoline supplies shrank 2.4 percent in that same period to 210.4 million barrels.
Retail gasoline rose in every region of the U.S. this week except in the Rocky Mountain area, where prices slipped 0.8 cent to $3.438 a gallon, making it the cheapest in the country, according to the EIA.
The EIA collects information from about 800 filling stations as of 8 a.m. local time on Mondays.