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Gas prices top $3 in Willmar area

Gas prices topped $3 Thursday at the Super America in Willmar. Gas prices have been rising across Minnesota and elsewhere as oil prices surge upward amid positive economic reports in the United States and China.

Gas prices Thursday topped $3 at some pumps in the Willmar area Thursday, the first time gas prices have hit that level in more than two years.

Gas for regular unleaded was posted as $3.049 Thursday afternoon at SuperAmerica in Willmar, but the station had dropped the price had $2.999 as of early Friday morning.

The last time gas was priced higher than $3 per gallon locally was October 2008, according to Times research.

Gas prices have risen in recent weeks in west central Minnesota, the rest of Minnesota and across the United States. At one station in St. Paul on Friday morning was selling gas for $3.29 Friday, according to

Oil prices surged Wednesday amid positive economic reports in China and the United States and hopes that a plan is in the works to ease Europe's debt problems.

Benchmark oil for January delivery gained $2.64, or 3.1 percent, to settle at $86.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline jumped 5 percent while other energy products posted solid gains on the day.

At the pump, the national average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline added a penny overnight to $2.864, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That's a half cent less than a week ago but nearly 24 cents more than it was a year ago.

Oil traders seemed more optimistic about the global economy after sifting through a series of reports that showed improved manufacturing activity in the U.S. and China, increased hiring among small U.S. businesses and higher U.S. work force productivity than initially thought during the third quarter.

At the same time, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet suggested that the bank could buy bonds by struggling countries within the European Union. That caused the dollar to grow weaker against other currencies. Since commodities are priced in dollars, a weaker dollar makes them more attractive for buyers using foreign currencies.

"The market seems to be kind of reflecting the `at-the-moment' kind of economic perception," Tradition Energy analyst Gene McGillian said.

Oil has been trading between about $81 a barrel and near $86 a barrel in the past week. It began climbing overnight after the state-affiliated China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its purchasing managers index rose to 55.2 last month from 54.7 in October.

The survey noted that rising prices for products and materials used in manufacturing remain a concern after inflation hit a 25-month high in October. China, a huge importer of oil and other commodities, has taken steps recently to keep a lid on rising prices and curb growth, which has affected oil prices.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.