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Gas prices near $4 per gallon in California

After hitting a mid-month speed bump, gas prices resumed their climb to $4 last week.

The average retail price of gasoline in Sacramento rose 5.2 cents a gallon to $3.96 over the past week, according to Monday's weekly report issued by SactoGasPrices.com, a GasBuddy.com website.

Prices rose only 0.2 cents the previous week, hitting the brakes after climbing nearly 40 cents a gallon in the three weeks before that.

Analysts said the latest rise was driven by concerns over the possible disruption of oil flowing out of the Middle East, particularly ports in war-torn Libya. The price of benchmark crude has jumped 24 percent since mid-February.

However, crude fell $1.42 to settle at $103.98 per barrel Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That decline was linked to news that Libyan rebels had recaptured some key oil ports and promised to resume exports.

Energy analysts stressed that the situation in the Middle East remains volatile, and unrest in various countries there could again send oil prices skyward. They said jitters are not necessarily tied to oil exports to the United States – only about 3 percent of Libyan oil comes to this country – but the possibility of a major disruption in oil shipping lanes throughout the Middle East.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said he believes crude oil prices could stabilize if another hot spot does not arise in the Middle East.

"We've seen resistance to $106 a barrel, so if (crude) cannot push through those barriers and all holds true in Libya, we may see crude oil prices actually drop and see a small market correction," DeHaan said.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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