Falling gasoline prices may have bottomed out.
After weeks of steady declines to levels last seen in the recessionary period of 2008, Sacramento-area gas prices spiked more than 7 cents over the past week to an average $2.16 a gallon, according to national gas price tracker GasBuddy.com.
That’s still 17.7 cents lower than last month and nearly a dollar below the year-ago average.
But analysts said multiple factors are now combining to drive prices upward in Sacramento, statewide and nationwide throughout March.
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Last week, GasBuddy issued an alert saying Southern California motorists could see at-the-pump costs spike 20 to 35 cents over a week’s time as the region switches from winter gasoline to the pricier spring/summer blend.
On Monday, GasBuddy said the average retail price of gas in Southern California was $2.54 a gallon, up 15 cents from the previous week. That helped drive the statewide average to $2.39 a gallon, up 8 cents from one week ago.
GasBuddy noted that Southern California is the first region in the country to make the switch to pricier spring/summer gas. Prior to that, refiners aggressively discounted stocks of winter gasoline, which helped drive gas prices lower. Northern California is expected to start the transition to spring/summer gas in late March.
GasBuddy analyst Will Speer attributed the local price spike to “the interesting relationship between San Francisco and Sacramento.”
Speer explained that Sacramento stations have been receiving winter gas from San Francisco, and “in Sacramento, they were discounting fuel at a quicker rate than San Francisco.” Last week, Speer said, the market “evened out,” and San Francisco saw little movement in pump prices.
On Monday, GasBuddy said the average retail price of gas in the San Francisco area was $2.49 a gallon, up only a penny from last week.
Also putting upward pressure on gas prices are a recent rally in crude oil, which was trading at extraordinarily low levels at the close of 2015 and the start of 2016, and the upcoming spring driving season, when road travel historically increases and ramps up through the summer months, GasBuddy said.
Nationally, the average price of gas stands at $1.74 a gallon, up nearly 4 cents from last week, but 65 cents below the year-ago level.
“We knew it was inevitable. The eight-month decline in prices at the pump that brought the national average as low as $1.67 has come to an end,” said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “The plateau or pause in price movement is now behind us as we’ve had a full week in which the national average has climbed steadily.
“As expected, this is the beginning of the seasonal price climb, and we’ll have to wait and see if last week’s rally for crude gains momentum to underscore the trend.”