Gas price streak reaches record length

TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2009

Rise at 48 days in a row; peak could come soon

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gas prices rose Monday for the 48th straight day, matching a record going back to at least the 1970s, with prices now up nearly two-thirds since the beginning of the year even as demand from motorists remains weak.

Yet the oil prices that influence what you pay at the pump are taking a breather from a three-month rally, with benchmark crude for July delivery falling $1.42 to settle at $70.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude prices have fallen nearly 3 percent over the past two trading days.

The good news for consumers is that gasoline prices may be peaking in the next couple of days. Wholesale gasoline prices in the Chicago area, which serves the upper Great Lakes, have fallen about 30 cents a gallon from just 10 days ago, said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. Gas prices in the region have been higher than in much of the rest of the country.

But money flowing into energy markets continues to confound experts. Even as oil prices fell, natural gas prices surged more than 8 percent.

Other than the lower prices, there seemed little reason to buy natural gas. The latest index of manufacturing in New York indicated that demand weakened yet again. Manufacturers, major users of natural gas, have slashed thousands of jobs.

Spiking natural gas prices would be a concern for everyone, from the heavy industries that use it to power factories to consumers who use it to heat their homes.

Crude’s upward track for most of the year has been mirrored by the declining value of the dollar. That’s because crude futures are bought and sold in U.S. currency. Crude gets cheaper for many buyers as the dollar falls.

A lot of money has entered the oil market in recent months for that reason and, as would be expected, crude prices fell for the second straight trading day Monday as the dollar rebounded.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 200 points Monday, which also may have pressured oil prices.

Prices at the pump rose 0.6 cents to $2.669 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Services. Prices are a nickel above where they were a week ago and 30.8 cents above month-ago levels, but remain $1.408 below year-ago levels.

Consumers are now paying about $1 billion a day for gasoline compared with about $600 million a day over New Year’s weekend and $1.5 billion a day or more a year ago, Kloza said.

Gas prices also rose 48 straight days in 2007.

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