Crude falls, but US gas prices up record 50 days in a row

Ciro Cesar/La Opinion/Newscom
Gas prices are rising in Los Angeles and the rest of the US. On Wednesday, the national average increased a record 50 days in a row.

Retail gasoline prices on Wednesday rose for the 50th straight day, the longest streak since Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) began tracking the figure in 1996.

But take heart, drivers. The rise can't last much longer.

Regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.68 a gallon Wednesday, up half a cent from Tuesday and 37 cents from a month ago, OPIS reported on the AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

But with crude oil prices falling four days in a row – down more than 1 percent on Wednesday alone – and gasoline reserves growing by an unexpected 3.4 million barrels, the price surge at the local pump is likely to end soon. By one estimate, gas prices should peak next month at not much beyond today's levels.

The price already is higher than market fundamentals call for, some analysts say.

"There's a lot of speculation that the economy's improving," says Fred Rozell, retail pricing director for OPIS, in a telephone interview. But "in my opinion, we're past where we should have peaked."

Normally, gas prices peak before Memorial Day in anticipation of the summer driving season, he says. The exception was last year when prices peaked in July at a record $4.11. This year is shaping up to be another exception.

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