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    Fuel Creeps Higher

    U.S. gasoline pump price highest since early April.

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. retail gasoline prices increased on average 1.6 cents over the last week, hitting $1.41 a gallon for the first time since early April, the Energy Department said.

    The rise in fuel costs, up almost 3 cents in two weeks, coincides with a drop in gasoline inventories and higher motor fuel demand. The latest pump price is up 1.5 cents from a year ago, based on a weekly survey of more than 800 convenience stores by the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    The national price for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, which is sold at about one-third of the gas stations in cities and smoggier areas, was up 0.8 cents to $1.47 a gallon, EIA said. The West Coast had the most expensive regular unleaded gasoline, though the average price in the region was down 0.8 cents to $1.54 a gallon.

    The Gulf Coast states had the cheapest fuel, with the average price up 1.5 cents to $1.32 a gallon. San Francisco maintained its top spot among major cities in fuel costs, with the price down a penny to $1.67 a gallon.

    The best deal at the pump was again found in Houston, where gasoline was up 0.2 cents to $1.32 a gallon. The report also showed gasoline prices down 2.1 cents in Los Angeles to $1.55, down 0.9 cents in Chicago to $1.48, up 2.1 cents in New York City to $1.45 and up 6.8 cents in Denver to $1.45.

    The EIA said it expects the average pump price to peak at around $1.43 later this summer, far from last year's record weekly price of $1.70.

    Separately, the nationwide price for diesel fuel increased for the fifth week in a row, rising 1.1 cents to $1.33 a gallon, down 4 cents from a year ago. Truckers in New England paid the most for diesel fuel at $1.40 a gallon, up 1.4 cents from the prior week. The lower Atlantic states had the cheapest diesel, up 1.6 cents to $1.27 a gallon.

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