Average U.S. gasoline prices are up 22 cents per gallon during August, and diesel prices are 19 cents per gallon higher, mainly on the strength of crude oil prices.
Benchmark crude oil increased 70 cents a barrel on Tuesday in New York to close at $93.43, an increase of $5 a barrel this month. Brent crude rose 43 cent to close at $114.03 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Brent crude has gained more than $8 per barrel during August.
Retail gasoline topped the $3.70 threshold for the first time since May 19, and the national average has climbed by more than 30 cents per gallon during the last month. Recent surveys suggest 39 states are now seeing higher gasoline prices than at the same time last year.
Trading in oil futures markets was supported by surprisingly strong July U.S. retail sales data. Traders see that as a sign that the economy is improving and energy demand will increase. The Commerce Department reported that U.S. sales rose in July by the largest amount in five months as Americans spent more on cars, furniture and clothes. U.S. retail sales data also produced gains in the dollar against the yen and pressured the price of gold.
Retail sales for July in the U.S. rose at 0.9 percent, the biggest increase since January. That news follows other data on housing and jobs that have raised hopes than an earlier economic slowdown may prove to be temporary. Retail sales data excludes autos, gasoline and building materials.
“Today’s data are supportive of the stock market. That’s a healthy development,” David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial in Boston told Reuters.