Retail gas prices are spiking to levels last seen in the heat of summer driving season, raising fears that consumers could cut back on holiday spending.
Experts continue to blame the weak dollar. According to auto club AAA's weekly fuel report, when investors see the dollar's value on the decline, they invest in commodities, such as crude oil. That pushes up the price of oil.
But the crude rally propelling the jump at the pump hit the brakes Monday, as a barrel of oil tumbled more than 2 percent and the dollar strengthened after hitting a 14-month low.
Nevertheless, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose for the 13th straight day, adding sixth-tenths of a cent overnight to $2.671, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. It's up by an average of about 17 cents in the Tampa Bay area and 12 cents across the country this week, AAA reports.
That's still below what drivers were paying at this time last year, but the 20-cent, two-week jump could prompt consumers already dealing with a climbing unemployment rate, depreciating home prices and damaged 401(k) accounts to spend less over the holidays, said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist with Moody's Economy.com.
Gas prices hit their summer peak of $2.6925 on June 21, but drivers could soon be paying more than that if prices continue inching upward. Drivers typically get a break on prices in fall.
"Until consumers are confident in their jobs and future income, they're going to be very hesitant in spending," Sweet said. "And higher gas prices are just another excuse to keep money in the pocket."
Times staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report.