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Petrol price nears record highs

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 16:46 03/04/2012
Fairfax Media
NEW PEAK: Petrol prices went up 4 cents a litre this week.

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The price of petrol at the pump is flirting with record levels reached last May amid heightened tension in the Middle East, even as demand for oil in the United States appears to be easing.

AA PetrolWatch today said petrol prices rose 3c a litre in March, while diesel climbed 2c a litre. 

That followed a rise in commodity prices and a drop in the New Zealand dollar exchange rate since the last retail price rise in late February. 

"At $2.20 a litre for 91 octane, petrol prices are perilously close to the record high of $2.22 a litre in May 2011, although diesel prices at $1.57 a litre are still some way off the record $1.92 a litre in July 2008," AA PetrolWatch spokesperson Mark Stockdale said. 

Oil prices reached US$128 ($155) a barrel during March for Brent blend, the relevant source for refining into engine fuels in Australasia. 

That price was the highest since July 2008, but the price of petrol at the pump had not topped last May's record because of a rise in the value of the New Zealand dollar. 

While commodity prices were lower than in mid-2008, retail prices included the extra 12c a litre in petrol tax now being paid, Stockdale said. 

The Brent oil price eased lower this afternoon but only to a little above US$125 a barrel, with an analyst telling Bloomberg concerns about Iran were keeping the price high despite months of subdued demand in the US. 

Oil has climbed this year amid concerns global supplies will be disrupted amid tensions about Iran's nuclear programme. 

At the same time, oil stockpiles in the US have risen in five of the past six weeks, and a Bloomberg News survey found they probably gained again last week. 

The AA's Stockdale said that while oil prices were down from their mid-March level, the NZ dollar had also fallen back since then so the imported cost was little changed.

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