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Short-term relief seen for gas prices

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline in metro Atlanta continues to rise, but prices are expected to hit a plateau by early next week, according to officials with AAA Auto Club South.

The average for regular unleaded climbed to $2.63 per gallon on Thursday, up 6 cents from the week before, as noted in AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Consumers saw the jump at the pump as a result of a boost in crude oil prices, which remained above the $80 mark through Thursday, after closing above $80 on Oct. 1, according to Bloomberg's Stock Market and Financial Markets Overview.

Crude oil supply and economic news are major reasons for the atypical rise in prices, said AAA Public Relations Manager Jessica Brady.

"The price of crude [oil] rose unexpectedly last week as a result of multiple factors [that increased] investor confidence," Brady said.

Decreasing levels of crude oil supply have forced prices upward, she added, which is partly the result of less supply coming from refineries, many of which are closed for seasonal maintenance.

The U.S. dollar also has decreased steadily in value against the euro and hit a six-month low, which increased the appeal of crude oil as a commodity for foreign investors, Brady continued.

Brady said she believes the current spike will not affect anticipated average prices for the year. However, she said, positive economic news that has tended to drive crude oil prices up may impact prices in the months to come.

"I think we will see a very interesting year [next year]," she said. "I don't think it will be anywhere as stable as it was this year. The economy is going to be one of the major factors that affects crude oil prices next year."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected, in its September Short-Term Energy Outlook, that the price of crude oil, which averaged $77 per barrel in August, will average $77 per barrel in the fourth quarter of 2010, and $82 per barrel in 2011.