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    Feds Maintain Fuel Predictions

    Energy Information Administration expects gasoline prices to average $1.43 per gallon for the summer.

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government yesterdat held to its previous forecast for gasoline prices this summer, predicting motor fuel will peak at a retail average of $1.43 per gallon.

    That would make gasoline prices this summer 11 cents lower than last year's average and well under the weekly record high of $1.70 a gallon reached in May 2000, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its latest monthly supply and demand report.

    "Adequate stocks of gasoline combined with strong levels of gasoline imports are factors mitigating high motor gasoline prices this summer," the EIA said, even as motor gasoline demand flirts with record levels.

    June pump prices across the nation averaged $1.42 per gallon in June, within pennies of levels they have held since late March, EIA said. EIA gave the caveat that pump prices "could creep up a bit" as crude oil prices are expected to remain strong and demand for gasoline is likely to increase over the next several months.

    Retail gasoline prices could rise by 10 cents to 15 cents per gallon in 2003 with a U.S. economic rebound, EIA said. Pump prices also could spike in different regions of the country if there was a major refinery or pipeline problem, the report said.

    EIA said gasoline demand should average about 9.13 million barrels per day (bpd) during the July-September period, 25,000 barrels per day more than it had previously forecast.

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