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GASOLINE PRICES MAY BE LEVELING OFF

Gasoline prices nationwide rose only slightly over the past two weeks, signaling a leveling off just as the heavy demand of summer begins, an oil industry analyst said.

The average price at the pump for all grades, including taxes, rose only 0.11 of one cent to 138.07 cents per gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey of more than 10,000 gasoline stations nationwide.Gasoline prices had been on the rise since Nov. 17, when the average price was 115.14 cents, nearly 23 cents lower than Lundberg's most recent survey.

The steep hikes were attributed to a variety of factors, including a shortage caused by higher production of heating oil during the winter.

Analyst Trilby Lundberg attributed the leveling off to the effect of lower crude oil prices. Also, temporary supply shortages have ended, she said.

An agreement that will allow Iraq to sell oil for the first time since the gulf war could push prices lower. But that will depend on whether OPEC nations compensate by cutting their own production by a matching amount.

Nationwide at self-serve pumps, where more than 95 percent of all gas is sold, the average per-gallon price was 131.83 cents for regular unleaded, 141.34 cents for mid-grade and 149.71 cents for premium.

At full-service pumps, the average was 161.75 cents for regular unleaded, 170.39 cents for mid-grade and 177.27 cents for premium.