The price of a gallon of gasoline rose for the first time in eight weeks in the United States as crude oil prices climbed and profit margins at refiners and gas stations were squeezed, pointing to more increases ahead, according to a widely followed survey released on Sunday.
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 0.84 cent in the past two weeks to $3.5447 per gallon on May 3, according the Lundberg Survey of about 2,500 gas stations across the United States.
The increase comes as demand for gas traditionally begins to rise ahead of the peak summer driving months of June, July and August, though no shortage seems to be looming, said Trilby Lundberg, the author of the survey.
Higher crude oil and ethanol prices are key factors in the uptick in gasoline prices, along with increased demand. Also, regulations require purer, lower-emission gasoline blends in the spring and summer when smog and pollution tend to increase, adding to the costs.
"These things converge to paint a picture of likely further price pressures at the pump - but slight to moderate, not a price spike scenario," Lundberg said.
Oil prices rallied to a three-week high on Friday, spurred by a better-than-expected U.S. job growth report that raised the prospect of stronger demand in the world's top oil consumer.
Refiners have been feeling the pinch from higher oil prices and have yet to pass on many of those costs to retailers, which will themselves be pressured to pass the increases on to drivers, Lundberg said.
The current average gasoline price in the survey is still 30 cents below the year-ago price, she added.
Chicago pump prices were the most expensive at $4.28 a gallon. Motorists in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, filled up with the least expensive gasoline at $3.20 a gallon.