Springtime's Higher Gas Prices Worsened by Mideast Turmoil

Springtime brings rain, flowers and higher gasoline prices.


And this year, the increase in gasoline pricesis already worse than in prior years, sparking concerns about consumer spending.

So far, consumer spending has been able to weather a gradual increase in gas prices that has occurred over the past six months.

CNBC checked in with an official from a trade group representing convenience stores who said that consumers have appeared "more confident" in recent months.

"We've actually been seeing some pretty good trends inside the store," said John Eichberger, director of motor fuels at the National Association of Convenience Stores in an interview with CNBC. "We have not had any reports as to what is happening right now."

According to Eichberger, convenience stores process nearly $1 out of every $28 spent in the United States, giving the group's members a good idea about consumer spending.

It will take some time for prices at the gas pump to catch up with the prices refiners will have to pay for crude oil. Turmoil in the Middle East pushed the price of Brent crude to a 2-1/2-year high near $120 a barrel on Thursday, while prices for U.S. light sweet crude briefly hit $103.41, its highest since September 2009, before retreating.

While the Middle East revolts are a factor in the recent surge in prices, Eichberger notes that it is typical to see oil prices rise at this time of year, as refiners are switching to the manufacturer of summer blends of gasoline that are more costly to produce. Also, demand begins to increase as consumers begin to drive more.

The last time national average gasoline prices crossed the $4-mark, oil was trading near $150, Eichberger said.

On Wednesday, the average gas price was $2.20 a gallon, nationally. That's the highest level ever for February.

Eichberger expects that if Saudi Arabia agrees to boost oil output, "that should calm down (oil traders in) New York a little bit" and bring down oil prices.

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