It hasn't been a great week at the pump for motorists across much of the United States. Over the last week, average pump prices have begun to pick up, rising 5-cents per gallon to $3.34- the highest since mid-October.
After weeks of relative stability with little change in gas price nationally, we've seen a new trend develop that has sent the national average to its highest level since mid-October.
Oil prices have recently surpassed $100/bbl, a $6/bbl jump since we began 2014, and unfortunately this new trend may signal the beginning of "March Madness", the time of year that brings large spikes in gas prices. Very few stations have gasoline under $3/gal, and I expect those few stations will all but dry up over the next couple weeks. The national average will likely rise 35-50 cents per gallon by the time gasoline prices peak in April or May, ahead of the start of the summer driving season that brings the switch to more expensive, cleaner burning summer gasoline.
Gone are prices under $3/gal that had lingered in areas of the Rockies and Plains. The cheapest gasoline prices in the U.S. now can be found in Armarillo, TX and Spartanburg, SC, where prices stand at an average $3.04/gal.
Meanwhile, the West Coast is seeing prices surge higher as parts of Southern California switch to cleaner burning, more expensive summer gasoline. Prices in Los Angeles have jumped 7-cents per gallon to $3.78/gal, and will surpass $4/gal in the next month.
The Great Lakes also saw gas prices spike over the weekend, which is exceedingly rare. Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio all saw prices spike 15-30 cents per gallon after wholesale prices jumped 7-cents per gallon in the region on Friday.
The national average this week will likely rise another 4-7 cents per gallon and could breach $3.40/gal, a level not seen since September of last year.