Are Higher Gas Prices on the Way?
The slide in gasoline prices has finally stalled.
Nationally, gasoline prices rose for the first time in nearly two weeks on Wednesday. The national average price for regular gasoline jumped nearly a penny overnight to $3.19 a gallon, according to AAA, marking its biggest one-day gain since Oct. 16 and first increase in 12 days. This bounce comes just after prices around the nation had fallen to their lowest levels since February 2011.
Abundant supplies and sluggish demand contributed to the sharp fall in gas prices recently-and prices are still declining in some parts of the country. In 10 states in the South Central region, the average price of gasoline statewide is below $3 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.
"I wouldn't call this a spike," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at GasBuddy.com. "Most of the strength (in gasoline prices) is regional, and it is lifting RBOB (gasoline) futures more than various markets."
Gasoline futures have climbed in part due to refinery issues on the East Coast. Nymex RBOB gasoline futures, a leading indicator for retail gasoline prices, have risen more than 10 cents (or 4 percent) in four days to a high of $2.63 a gallon on Wednesday morning.
Gasoline prices also closely follow the rise in oil prices globally. In addition to supplies from U.S. refineries, gasoline is also imported into New York Harbor. As a result, gasoline futures traded at the Nymex often closely follow Brent crude-the global benchmark for oil prices-which has rallied sharply recently, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.
Supply disruptions in Libya and concerns about the failure to reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program have sent Brent crude futures soaring about $4 a barrel since last week to over $107 a barrel on Wednesday.
Analysts said that historically, gasoline prices reach the lows of the year between Election Day and Christmas week. But the holiday season often sees an increase in demand as well, said energy trader John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital.
"You'd expect an uptick at the pump during that Thanksgiving time period, but I would not expect a lot though, and you could see it falling off at the end of this year," he said.
Increasing gasoline supplies could keep a lid on a significant price rise, added Kloza. "Lots of U.S. refiners are coming back from maintenance, and it will be difficult for the gasoline market to sustain any gains as that equipment puts more gasoline on the market," he said.
Kloza said there may be a few small bounces in gasoline prices, but "no serious increases in retail prices until 2014," he said. Lipow disagrees. He expects the national average price to climb back to $3.25 a gallon in the next 10 days.
-By CNBC's Sharon Epperson. Follow her on Twitter: @sharon_epperson. CNBC Executive Editor Patti Domm contributed to this report.