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    Average U.S. Gas Price Likely to Top $2

    Hike likely headed much higher than experts predicted.

    NEW YORK -- The average price for gasoline is almost certain to top $2 a gallon Friday, and the average could hit a record over the weekend or early next week as fuel prices rebound much faster and appear headed much higher than experts had predicted, reported USA Today.

    "It is incredibly unusual to have gasoline prices higher on Halloween than on the spring and summer holidays," said Tom Kloza, senior analyst at Oil Price Information Service, which surveys prices daily at 60,000 gas stations.

    The nationwide average for a gallon of unleaded regular was $1.998, up nine-tenths of a cent overnight, motorists' club AAA reported Thursday, using OPIS data. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which samples prices each Monday, showed the average at $1.993 earlier this week, up 5.5 cents from a week earlier.

    Prices are about 42 cents a gallon higher than a year ago, adding roughly $200 to the yearly fuel bill for a midsize sedan, $300 for a midsize sport-utility vehicle and perhaps $500 for a full-size SUV that uses premium fuel.

    Higher gas prices have a wide impact because most people can't simply quit commuting to work or school. "Gasoline prices affect almost everyone 16 years of age or older," EIA noted this week.

    The OPIS/AAA record is $2.054 reported May 26. EIA's record is $2.064 May 24. Although they could be the highest numbers posted, taking inflation into account, the nationwide average for regular must pass $2.95 to set a record. The current average is more than $2 in 16 states, and 18 more are likely to pass $2 today or this weekend, according to OPIS/AAA data.

    The price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate, also known as light, sweet crude, was a record $54.76 per barrel Thursday, up $1.12 per barrel. The jump was partly a reaction to the weekly EIA report showing inventories of heating oil are 10 percent lower than a year ago.

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