U.S. Gas prices climb to record $4; could go higher: survey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gallon of gasoline is costing U.S. drivers a record $4 on average at the gas pump, and prices are likely to keep rising if soaring crude oil prices do not retreat from record highs, according to an industry analyst on Sunday.

“If crude oil prices stay at nearly $139 a barrel, a 30-cent rise (for a gallon of gas) over the next few weeks is possible,” said Trilby Lundberg, editor of the nationwide Lundberg survey of about 7,000 gas stations.

Higher gas prices are crippling consumers and businesses, and squelching the U.S. economy, which is already under pressure from higher food prices, job losses and sinking home values.

The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States hit $3.9985 on June 6, up 20.5 cents from the last tally on May 16, according to the Lundberg survey. Drivers are paying 89 cents more per gallon than they were at this time last year, she said.

Drivers in Stockton, California, are paying the most for gas at $4.41 per gallon, according to the survey of metropolitan cities. In Wichita, Kansas, consumers are paying the least at $3.65 per gallon.

Prices at the pump also vary across U.S. regions, with consumers paying an average $3.84 in the Gulf Coast area and $4.27 a gallon on the West Coast.

“We can expect some further increase at the pump,” Lundberg said.

The Lundberg survey results were echoed in one issued on Sunday by travel group AAA, which said the U.S. average price for a gallon of regular gasoline topped $4 for the first time.

AAA’s survey showed a national average price of $4.005 per gallon, up from $3.67 a month ago and $3.10 a year ago.

On June 6, crude oil jumped almost 9 percent to $138.54 a barrel. Oil has risen 44 percent so far this year, threatening U.S. economic growth, which has already been hobbled by a housing crisis.

Reporting by Chelsea Emery, editing by Maureen Bavdek