Oil climbed slightly higher in commodities trading Monday as the Energy Department reported that retail gasoline prices increased by about a nickel nationally and in California from a week ago.
The average retail price of regular gasoline rose 4.9 cents nationally to $2.751 a gallon Monday. California saw a similar 4.7-cent gain to $3.046 a gallon, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of filling stations.
Prices traditionally rise in the month of March, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J.
Kloza predicted that gasoline prices would top out this month at about $3 a gallon nationally and $3.25 in California.
He attributed the increase to higher oil prices, the annual switch to more expensive summer gasoline and a slight increase in demand as winter-weary drivers hit the streets. But, he said, plentiful supplies would mean that the price gains wouldn't last.
Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at PFGBest Research in Chicago, said that oil prices took some strength Monday from indications that European leaders would reach an agreement to bail Greece out of its economic mess.
Crude oil for April delivery settled up 37 cents, or 0.4%, at $81.87 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange.