Gas prices hit $3 a gallon in parts of Florida

TAMPA — Gas prices in parts of Florida reached $3 a gallon last week, almost 30 cents more than the national average.

Experts say prices likely won't go much lower than that, but they're not predicting much higher prices, either.

The highest prices were around the Treasure Coast. Florida's average gas price last week was $2.84, a 5-cent increase over the previous week.

Here's what's happening, according to AAA Auto Club South spokeswoman Jessica Brady:

The price of retail gasoline is tied to the price of crude oil, and crude oil prices are largely determined by investor demand.

The higher the price of crude oil, the higher the price of retail gas.

Particularly when the U.S. dollar is weak, foreign investors put money in commodities, including crude oil. Until last week, the demand and the price of crude oil was increasing. Gas prices were, too.

In response to that demand, the United States increased its crude oil supplies. Crude stockpiles are at their highest level since August 2009.

Several recent reports indicating that the U.S. economy was nearing a rebound caused investors to buy even more crude oil, and the price kept rising.

But Friday, a Reuters report showed a decline in consumer confidence, which drew investors' attention. The price of crude oil fell from $83 a barrel before the study was released to $81.24. It fell $1.44 to $79.80 on Monday.

It would be logical to expect a decrease in gas prices following a decrease in crude oil prices, but Brady said gas prices will likely remain about the same.

She said the next closing price of crude oil on Friday would paint a better picture, but experts don't expect gas prices to go above about $3 through the summer.

Reach Kim Wilmath at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

Gas prices hit $3 a gallon in parts of Florida 03/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 8:19pm]

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