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    Lundberg: Gas Rises to $2.61 per Gallon

    Increase is slower than the previous month, could signal a drop in price, analyst said.

    NEW YORK -- The U.S. average retail gasoline price rose to $2.61 per gallon during the past two weeks, but at a slower pace than last month, according to industry analyst Trillby Lundberg, in a Reuters report.

    The lessened pace reflects a strong demand and production shortfalls at refineries, she added. The current average price is up about 5.6 cents per gallon from the two-week ago price, according to the survey of approximately 7,000 gas stations in the nation.

    Compared to the year-ago price, the current average is still 11 cents lower, and 42 cents below the record high that was reached on August 11, Lundberg told Reuters.

    "We had more refining capacity events than usual, and this tightened supplies," Lundberg said. "At the same time, demand has been strong for this time of year and it's risen seasonally after January."

    While gasoline inventories remain sufficient to balance lower production due to maintenance at refineries, prices have not been high enough to attract foreign imports, according to the report.

    In addition, the arrival of daylight savings time earlier than usual this year may have encouraged Americans to drive more, she said.

    Since the end of January, average gasoline prices rose 37 cents per gallon, but the slowdown resulted in a smaller price increase, which could lead to a decline in prices, the report stated. Some of the cities surveyed in the recent study reported lower prices than two weeks ago.

    "If crude prices don't rise further, the gasoline price surge should come to an end very soon," she said. "The conditions for a price rise at pump should be reversed, though the price of crude is a wild card."

    San Francisco holds the highest average price for self-serve regular unleaded gas at $3.19 a gallon. Drivers in St. Louis see the lowest price per gallon, at $2.34.

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