NEW YORK -- The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. filling stations increased 3.74 cents over the past two weeks and may have peaked, according to Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey.
The price jump to $3.9671 a gallon covers the period ended Friday and is based on the Camarillo, Calif.-based company's survey of about 2,500 stations.
"Price hikes at the pump have been losing steam for weeks," Lundberg said. "Crude oil prices have slipped, and if they don't rebound in the very near future, gasoline prices will peak very soon, if they haven't already."
The average York area price per gallon was hovering near $4 Tuesday, at $3.99, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. That's up from $3.96 a week ago, $3.78 a month ago, and $3.65 a year ago.
The highest price in the lower 48 U.S. states among the cities surveyed was in Chicago, where the average was $4.45 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Tulsa, Okla., where
customers paid an average of $3.66. Los Angeles-area retail stations averaged $4.27, according to Lundberg.
"The price spikes had been led by places like Chicago and Los Angeles," Lundberg said. "Now we see some of these prices tumbling."
Gasoline on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 1.3 percent to $3.3405 a gallon in the two weeks ended Thursday.
"Compared to the magnitude of recent price spikes, this is small," Lundberg said. The increase was the smallest rise for the motor fuel since the two weeks between Jan. 6 and Jan. 20, according to Lundberg Survey. A decline in U.S. oil prices over the past two weeks has helped, she said.
Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange have climbed 24 percent this year, the best performance in the Standard & Poor's GSCI index of 24 commodities.
Prices had surged on speculation that refinery closings would tighten supplies and as crude rose on concern that tensions with Iran over its nuclear program would reduce oil supplies. New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude is up 4.5 percent in 2012, and Brent oil on the ICE Futures Europe exchange has gained 15 percent.
Economy: With the U.S. jobs market and manufacturing showing improvement, higher pump prices before the peak summer driving season have become an issue in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. The Obama administration has said it's monitoring prices in 360 U.S. cities to guard against fraud or price manipulation.
The U.S. Senate rejected a Democratic bill to repeal about $24 billion in tax breaks to oil companies on March 29. Republicans have proposed legislation to deal with rising U.S. gas prices by studying the effect of environmental rules.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles fell 1.46 million barrels to a 10-week low of 221.9 million in the week ended March 30, according to Energy Department data. Gasoline demand over the prior four weeks was 3.8 percent below a year earlier.
Retail consumption this year through March 30 was 5.6 percent lower than the same period in 2011, according to MasterCard Inc.'s SpendingPulse report on April 3. Fuel use over the previous four weeks was 5.9 percent lower than a year earlier, a record 54th consecutive decline.