But the penny-a-day increases would suggest that prices might soon be peaking out. Of course, that still leaves an average gallon of regular at $4.298, according to the Auto Club, up 14 cents from a week ago and around 56 cents from a month ago. Prices normally shoot up during the late winter months (refinery maintenance is the usual excuse), but this year the hikes have been especially sharp and especially early. They've also been felt all over the U.S., not only in California. One cause being cited: Financial market speculation. From the Christian Science Monitor:
The rally has been driven by earlier-than-usual speculation that demand for oil will rise, further inflating prices, says -oil analyst Tom] Kloza. In a recent Commodity Futures Trading Commission report, Kloza said he calculated that there is about $45 billion more bet on higher petroleum futures than on lower ones. In other words, more traders expect oil prices to rise in the future than to fall, an expectation that causes oil producers to horde oil in the hopes they can sell it at higher prices later on. That dries up current supplies and translates to higher prices at the pump, which Kloza says we're already seeing. The skew is always bullish, but this is really early for such a one-sided money flow," he says.