NEW YORK (AP) -- Gasoline prices are getting an early start on their annual spring march higher.
The average U.S. retail price rose 13 cents over the past two weeks to $3.42 per gallon, and within a few days it will likely set a record for this time of year.
The culprits: Rising crude oil prices, slowing output at refineries that are undergoing maintenance, and low supplies of gasoline.
These are the kinds of thing that push gasoline prices higher every spring after what is normally a lull in gasoline prices in the late fall and early winter. But a heavy schedule of January maintenance at West Coast refineries has led to sharply higher prices there. Meanwhile, low inventories have pushed prices higher on the East Coast.
And rising crude oil prices have pushed prices higher throughout the country.
"I'm not surprised at what I'm seeing, but I am surprised it's coming early," said Tom Kloza, Chief Oil Analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
Hopes of stronger economic growth in the U.S. and abroad helped push the U.S. stock market to a five-year high in January and sent crude prices up. When economies expand, more gasoline, diesel and jet fuel are consumed by shippers and travelers.
Retail gasoline prices have risen for 14 days straight, according to AAA. The average price for the month of January was $3.32, the second highest January average ever, although a nickel cheaper than last year's record.
The national average price has risen in nine of the last 10 Februarys. Last year gasoline prices jumped 28 cents, or 8 percent, in February and averaged $3.55 for the month.