Gasoline prices continue climb

Gasoline and diesel buyers got no relief Monday despite a drop in oil costs.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery declined $2.87 to close at $109.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Traders were reacting to lowered forecasts for U.S. economic growth and a potential cease fire in Libya.

Pump prices continued the climb that began in September. The U.S. average for a gallon of regular gasoline jumped 10.7 cents in the week ended Monday to $3.791, or 93.3 cents higher than a year earlier, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of service stations.

The biggest regional increase was the 12.4-cent jump in the Midwest, where the closure of that area's biggest refinery — the more than 400,000 barrel a day BP facility in Whiting, Ind. — was causing price surges in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for The Midwest average for regular gasoline reached $3.805 a gallon.

California drivers paid $4.161 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline, up 10.4 cents from the previous Monday. The average was $1.065 a gallon higher than at this time last year.

Diesel prices were even more expensive, topping $4 a gallon, at $4.078 on average nationwide, for the first time since Sept. 15, 2008. The weekly increase amounted to 10 cents a gallon, making the U.S. average $1.009 higher than a year earlier.

Fuel prices have been on such a relentless course that the International Monetary Fund warned Monday that they threatened to slow the U.S. economic recovery.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said that 2011's peak was probably near and that prices can't be sustained at these levels.

"Fuels are at an excessively high level. They will get a little more excessive, but it will turn soon," Kloza said. "What you pay for fuel on Easter Sunday should be higher than what you will be paying on the July 4th weekend."

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