UK Gasoline Sales at 23-year Low as AA Warns of More Price Hikes
02/22/2013| 05:00am US/Eastern
By Cassie Werber
LONDON--Gasoline sales in the U.K. fell to a 23-year low in January and the country's leading motoring organization Friday warned of a further squeeze on motorists as recent high prices of crude oil work their way through to the pumps.
The Automobile Association, which publishes a monthly fuel price report, said Friday that a rapid increase in the cost to consumers--the average cost of filling a car with gasoline in the U.K. has risen by more than 3 pounds ($4.57) since the beginning of 2013, it said--could be blamed on "a combination of stock market speculators pumping up the price of petrol and financial gambling pushing down the value of the pound."
Crude oil prices reached a nine-month high of $117.88 a barrel on Feb. 13.
Such rises don't always filter through to the consumer market, but the AA said that since the start of the year the wholesale price of petrol has risen from around $990 a [metric] ton to more than $1,110 a ton, and that this has affected prices at the pump.
"After surging five pence a liter over a month, the average petrol price on U.K. forecourts has shot up a further penny in the past five days," the statement said.
The upward trend in crude oil prices has reversed over the last week, however, with Dow Jones Newswires reporting Thursday that analysts felt it to be "firmly broken."
The AA said any changes to the pump price usually lag changes to wholesale price by two weeks.
The AA also said that HM Revenue and Customs figures show U.K. gasoline sales in January "fell to the lowest tracked by government in 23 years."
The AA's president, Edmund King, urged Chancellor George Osborne not to impose expected fuel-duty increases in his budget announcement on March 20.
"Given the lashing motoring families and U.K. businesses are taking from speculator-driven fuel prices, we hope the chancellor spells out clearly in the forthcoming Budget that he can feel the pressure rocketing fuel price inflation places on families and business - and that he will cancel the September rise if that strain is too great," said King in a statement.
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