U.S. News

Gas prices up to $2.81 per gallon, but seen steadying

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States rose 8.62 cents to $2.81 in the past two weeks as retailers raised their margins, according to an industry analyst.

It was the second consecutive two-week period with an increase in the price of regular-grade gasoline.

But Trilby Lundberg, who edited the latest nationwide Lundberg survey of some 5,000 gas stations, which was conducted on March 19, does not expect the national average price for regular gas to go much higher in the coming weeks because of an abundance of crude oil supplies and a still-tentative global economic recovery.

Lundberg said prices had already risen 86 cents from the same time a year ago, leaving little room for additional increases.

Although prices could continue to edge up slightly as struggling retailers try to boost their margins.

"The fact is we still do have a glut of crude oil and meanwhile, demand is stagnant," Lundberg said, adding that OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, had not cut back on production as much as it said it would.

Crude oil closed at $80.68 per barrel on March 19, down from a close of $81.50 on March 5.

"We don't have the type of economic recovery that would support any significant increase in demand," Lundberg said, dismissing speculation average prices could climb to $3 per gallon.

At $2.60 per gallon, motorists in Newark, New Jersey, paid the lowest average price for self-service, regular, unleaded gas, while the highest was $3.38 a gallon in Honolulu, Hawaii.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Maureen Bavdek)