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Las Vegas gasoline prices rise 11 cents in one week

Las Vegas gasoline prices have risen 11 cents in a week and 18 cents in the past month, AAA said Monday.

In its Daily Fuel Gauge Report, AAA said the average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded self-serve gasoline was $3.273 on Monday. That’s up from $3.156 a week ago (a 3.7 percent jump) and up from $3.089 a month ago (a 6 percent jump).

The current local average price is up 20.5 percent from the year-ago price of $2.717 per gallon.

Las Vegas’ price was below Nevada’s current average price of $3.306, which is up 10.5 cents (3.3 percent) from a week ago and up 17.8 cents (5.7 percent) from a month ago.

The current national average price is $3.171, AAA said. That’s up 1.4 percent from $3.126 a week ago and up 1.7 percent from $3.116 a month ago.

A Bloomberg News survey suggested prices for crude oil, from which gasoline derives, may rise this week as mounting Middle East tensions threaten to disrupt shipments from the region. Bloomberg News reported Monday that 20 of 46 analysts, or 43 percent of those polled, forecast that crude oil prices will rise through Friday . Fifteen respondents, or 33 percent, predicted prices will decline and 11 estimated little change, Bloomberg News said. Last week, 48 percent said futures would decrease.

Several analysts told news outlets Monday that revolts that intensified Monday in Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies, may also hamper future crude oil supplies and drive prices higher.

AAA Nevada spokesman Michael Geeser said that although revolts in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East could threaten future oil supplies, they’re probably less to blame for the current rising prices for gasoline in Las Vegas, which derives from crude from the North Alaskan Slope. Likelier, he said, is that local prices are rising because California refineries are starting to reformulate gasoline for spring and summer blends.

But, he said, if the Middle Eastern turmoil does interrupt global oil flow as some observers fear, markets that derive their gasoline from supplies flowing through say, Egypt’s Suez Canal, could look elsewhere for their supplies, perhaps to the Alaskan stocks serving Nevada.

“That’s where the circle (of supply) could affect us,” Geeser said.

Fuel price analyst Trilby Lundberg told CNN International on Monday that national gasoline prices are rising even as West Texas Intermediate crude, a common U.S. futures market benchmark, is “glutted, in serious oversupply.” The Wall Street Journal on Monday suggested that a glut of oil in the Southwest U.S.’ main storage facility in Cushing, Okla., has helped keep U.S. prices relatively in check even as prices for Brent Crude, an important European oil futures market benchmark, have risen.

The Journal noted Monday that Brent crude settled at $105.74 a barrel, a two-year high, after rising as high as $108.70 a barrel on worries that the Libyan turmoil would curb that country’s oil supply. The benchmark oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed on Friday at $86.10; the market was closed Monday for Presidents Day.

Lundberg told CNN that revolts in the Middle East and north Africa have helped push prices higher, since U.S. refiners also use crudes these regions produce. But AAA Nevada’s Geeser said perceptions that the national economy is recovering may also be pushing the national price higher.

Geeser said it’s possible local gasoline prices will continue to rise through the spring. Pump prices usually spike after Memorial Day, the start of the traditional summer driving season. But Geeser said if prices keep rising this quickly, there may not be much of a post-Memorial Day spike.

Also, he said, there are chances for price peaks and valleys. The American economic recovery has had false starts before, he said, and when the perceived momentum lost steam, crude oil and gasoline prices have dropped again.

For current average prices, Hawaii ($3.729) Alaska ($3.630), California ($3.561) New York ($3.402) Washington ($3.357) and Oregon ($3.345) rank ahead of Nevada, AAA said. Nationwide, just Missouri ($2.987) and Wyoming ($2.957) had prices below $3 a gallon.

Contact reporter Matthew Crowley at mcrowley
@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0304.

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