In the first full week of 2012, the national average rose 10 cents, to $3.37 for a gallon of regular unleaded.
During that same period, the average price in Georgia jumped 14 cents to $3.35, and South Carolina’s price climbed 13 cents to $3.22.
“We’re probably going to see oil prices inch up again this week,” said AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady.
At Christmas, prices had dropped nearly 20 cents from the previous month and were expected to continue falling throughout the holiday travel season.
Brady said consumers are already starting to voice concerns that prices will shoot to $4 a gallon by spring or summer, but she says it’s hard to predict prices three or more months in advance.
“It’s not too atypical to see prices rise the first week of the new year,” Brady said.
Positive employment numbers coupled with the concerns that Iran will block oil exports out of the Middle East contributed to oil selling at $101.56 a barrel Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That’s $2.73 more than the previous week.
One factor that could contribute to a future decrease in prices is the speculation that Europe will enter a recession that could stifle oil demand.
According to the Department of Energy, U.S. gasoline demand is on the decline, with inventories rising by 2.5 million barrels to 220.0 million the last week of December.
“I think in the short term we’re probably going to see oil prices inch up a bit this week, and depending on where oil trades for the remainder of the week will determine whether prices continue to increase or decrease,” Brady said.