By Johnny Jackson
Gas prices are going up, but slowly, according to industry officials.
AAA Auto Club South reported prices are increasing statewide as they did during the month of May, by about a penny per day. Average gas prices climbed to about $2.36 per gallon of regular unleaded gas on Monday, up from $2.35 Sunday and $2.29 the week prior.
Gas prices peaked this year around the first of June, according to AAA Auto Club South. Then, national gas prices averaged about $2.61 per gallon for regular unleaded gas, while average prices in Georgia peaked around $2.50. The decrease in national average prices that followed ended July 22, after a string of 30 consecutive days of decline, the auto club said.
Metro Atlantans, according to AAA, are currently paying more per gallon than other metropolitan areas around the state, as Atlanta gas prices average $2.39 for a gallon of regular unleaded.
The stock market's rally of the past two weeks raised the Dow Jones Index past 9,000 - a milestone not seen since January, said Gregg Laskoski, spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.
He said the rally has pushed crude oil into a rally of its own. Crude oil reached a July 24 closing price of $68.05 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a one-week increase of nearly $4.50 per barrel.
Gas prices are expected to average about $2.36 per gallon for the year, according to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Short-Term Energy Outlook.
The EIA reported, however, that consumers could expect to pay more in July and August, on average, than they did in June, with average prices at about $2.66 per gallon nationwide.
Laskoski said that, according to the trade publication Retail Fuel Watch, wholesale prices jumped last week more than a dozen cents despite higher gas production, imports, and firmer "implied" demand.
Over the past week, he continued, the national average price of gas had increased by 3 cents per gallon and 5 cents per gallon in Georgia.
"In the week ahead, retail prices could move slightly higher reflecting the increase in wholesale prices," Laskoski said. "Even though consumer demand remains flat, the stock market's climb and some positive economic indicators - such as Thursday's announcement of three consecutive months with gains in home sales - has apparently improved investors' appetite for risk, and that's a big part of the push now in commodities and specifically in crude oil."