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Pump prices level off after big surge; oil steady

Pump prices leveled off over the weekend, breaking a monthlong string of daily increases that boosted the cost of driving. On Monday the national average for gas stood at $3.777 a gallon, down a fractional from $3.781 on Friday, according to AAA,...

Pump prices leveled off over the weekend, breaking a monthlong string of daily increases that boosted the cost of driving.

On Monday the national average for gas stood at $3.777 a gallon, down a fractional from $3.781 on Friday, according to AAA, the Oil Price Information Service, and Wright Express. The price is still up about 44 cents from a month ago.

Last week's 3 percent drop in oil prices helped slow the rise in gas prices, but the relief may be short-lived.

On Thursday, when the average for gas was $3.78, Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at OPIS, said prices "will still be higher on St. Patrick's Day than they are now." Gas prices usually rise in late winter and early spring as refiners close for maintenance and switch to more expensive summer blends. The price of gas peaked last year at $3.94 a gallon on April 5.

Meanwhile oil finished little changed in New York, after being up more than $1 earlier in the day. Benchmark crude fell 2 cents to $93.11 a barrel.

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Traders are keeping an eye on a new round of talks beginning Tuesday in Kazakhstan between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Iran, nominally one of the world's top oil producers, has had to make substantial output cuts because U.S.-led sanctions are greatly limiting its crude exports.

In London, Brent crude was up 34 cents to end at $114.44 on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $3.26 a gallon.

- Heating oil fell less than 1 cent to finish at $3.10 a gallon.

- Natural gas rose 12 cents to end at $3.41 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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