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Gas prices remain near 2009 high (4:37 p.m. 11/16/09)


AP Energy Writer

Gasoline prices remained near their highs for the year on Monday as a weaker dollar and rising global stock markets boosted oil prices.

Prices at the pump fell 0.4 cents overnight to $2.631 a gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That is down six cents from the peak of $2.691 reached Oct. 30.

But the gap between now and a year ago continues to widen. Prices are now 52.6 cents higher than last year at this time when gasoline prices slid along with oil prices as the recession took hold.

Higher prices for gasoline come even as demand for oil and gasoline remain soft.

For most of this year, oil prices surged as investors pumped money into crude contracts to protect themselves from a weaker dollar. Oil was seen as a safer bet with demand expected to rise next year as the world’s economies begin to recover.

After hitting their lowest level in a month, oil prices bounced back on Monday. Benchmark crude for December delivery rose $2.55 to settle at $78.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

U.S. stock markets rose to highs for the year after retail sales rebounded more than expected in October because of a boost in auto sales.

Stock markets in Asia and Europe rose as well Monday as Japan reported its economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.8 percent in the third quarter. That was the second straight quarter of expansion and the biggest rise since 2007.

At the same time, the euro pushed back toward the $1.50 level against the dollar. Commodities such as oil and gold are priced in dollars so they become cheaper when the dollar falls.

Crude prices fell last week and U.S. stock markets rose as investors started to focus more on the continued weak demand for oil.

“That could be the beginning of the disconnect as the fundamentals weigh on oil,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 6.59 cents to settle at $2.0320 a gallon. Gasoline for December delivery gained 7.06 cents to settle at $1.9868 a gallon. Natural gas for December delivery advanced 22.2 cents to settle at $4.614 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for December delivery rose $2.45 to settle at $78.76 on the ICE Futures exchange.

Associated Press writers Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.

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