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Old 05-02-2007, 11:13 AM   #129
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Gasoline prices could hit record this month: AAA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. retail gasoline prices could hit an all-time high by the end of this month due to ongoing problems at the nation's oil refineries, automobile and travel group AAA said on Wednesday.

Gasoline prices have surged 30 cents since early April to $2.97 a gallon on average, bringing them within a dime of the record struck after Hurricane Katrina shut down refineries along the Gulf Coast in 2005.

"The nationwide average price of self-serve regular will probably hit $3 per gallon in the next few days, and could possibly set a new all-time record high price before the end of the month," AAA said.

Gasoline stockpiles in the United States have dropped by 15 percent since early February amid an unusually high number of refinery outages, alongside robust demand and low imports.

AAA said it was "alarming" that gasoline prices were rising so high without the backdrop of a major geopolitical or natural event to disrupt supply, like a hurricane or a new military flare-up in the Middle East.

"Because oil prices today are at least $10 less expensive per barrel than when gasoline prices previously exceeded $3 per gallon, almost all of the price pressure on gasoline can now be attributed to America's continuing -- and increasing -- inability to supply enough refined gasoline to the marketplace," AAA said.

The U.S. government said earlier this week that gasoline prices could hit a record this summer.
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