Freddy Lozoga fills an underground tank at a service station in Los Angeles.… (Nick Ut / Associated Press…)
Southern California has seen its biggest ever one-month rise in gasoline prices, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California's weekend gas watch.
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the varying regions of Southern California has now climbed 57 to 59 cents since last month.
"We looked at all of the one-month spikes that could have been bigger since the year 2000 and this was bigger than any of those," said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club.
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Montgomery added that she knew the region's motorists were taking a big hit when she realized "We're almost paying Wailuku prices for gasoline."
Wailuku, in case you don't know, is on the island of Maui, in Hawaii. That's a state that is notorious for usually having the highest or next-highest gasoline prices in the U.S.
Today in Wailuku, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.399.
The average price of regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.316 per gallon, which is 11.3 cents more than last week, 57 cents higher than last month, and 23 cents higher than last year.
In San Diego, the average price is $4.285, 10.2 cents above last week, 58 cents above last month, and 20 cents higher than last year.
On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.306, up 12.8 cents from last week, 59 cents higher than a month ago, and 20 cents more than last year.
In the Inland Empire, the average per-gallon price is $4.276, up 10.6 cents from last week, 58 cents higher than last month, and 23 cents more than last year.
“Prices have now gone up even more than they did during the spike in October and the one last February, and more quickly than they did during any one-month stretch in 2008, when we had another big spike,” said Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring.
One of the reasons cited by analysts is Southern California's early switch to more expensive summer-blend gasoline. Northern California is about to make the same switch from cheaper winter blend gasoline.
Unusually high levels of refinery maintenance in California is cited as another reason.
But big-money investment speculation, from hedge fund and commodity pools, has also soared in recent months, based on bets that the price of oil and gasoline would rise.
The only good news: the hot bets have begun to cool, for now, said Patrick DeHaan, senior energy analyst for GasBuddy.com, with investors beginning to pull out of the market.
High fuel prices are beginning to affect the bottom line of some of the nation's top retailers.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example beat Wall Street expectations for its most recent fiscal quarter, but the world’s largest retailer is now warning that higher payroll taxes, income tax refund delays and lofty gas prices will cause stagnant sales during the current quarter.