America Battles Sticker Shock at Gas Pump

ABC News(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- There's no relief for Americans Tuesday morning from rising, record-setting gas prices.

The average cost of gas has jumped to $3.52 per gallon, up from $3.38 per gallon last week and 77 cents higher than a year ago.  It is the highest price ever posted during the month of March.  And it could cost even more, depending on location.

At Suncoast Energys' gas station in Orlando, Florida, gas prices have surpassed the $5 mark: $5.39 a gallon for regular and $5.49 for premium.

Suncoast is among the last gas stations for travelers heading to the Orlando airport, making it a prime spot for customers in a pinch.  When ABC News asked would-be Suncoast patrons about their choice of gas station and pointed out the high prices, some decided to look elsewhere to fill up their tanks.

"It's lower than California, I know that," one man said before experiencing sticker shock.  "What the...I guess not."

Sally Slater said she spent $75 to fill up her SUV with half a tank of gas, which is about $5.50 per gallon.

"This is like robbery," Slater said, admitting that she didn't look at the price of the gas before pumping.  "If I had looked beforehand, I would not have purchased this."

The least expensive gas is in Montana at $3.19 a gallon, while, according to AAA's daily gas prices, California has the most expensive gas at $3.90 for regular grade.

With consumers feeling the pain at the pump, oil prices neared $105 a barrel today in Asia Tuesday, as fighting continued in Libya.  Although unrest in Libya has yet to disrupt global oil supply significantly, analysts have said the markets remain concerned that the revolts percolating in the Middle East might affect supplies in the top oil exporters of the world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tax Tip: Consider the Future, Not Just 2010

Ryan McVay/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- When you're doing your taxes, it's a good idea to look at the big picture.

"Tax planning really should be a year round event," says Mary Beth Franklin of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, but it usually doesn't work out that way. "Unfortunately most of us only think about it when we're panicking to pull together our existing tax forms."

"When you...hit the send button or pop that return in the mail it's a great time to sit down and review what you've done. Do you see any patterns there, how you're spending your money?"

Tax accountant Janice Hayman advises taking a look what's being taken from your current pay check.

"During the year people should just keep track of all of their sources of income. They should keep track of their deductions as they're incurring them."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stock Futures Up in Pre-Market Trading

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The stock market is holding up pretty well given the soaring price of oil.

Major averages have been down less than three percent since oil prices took off.  On Monday, the Dow dropped 80 points, but futures are up in the U.S. Tuesday and so are most European and Asian averages.

Oil prices Tuesday morning are down from Monday's new high -- light sweet crude is now trading at around $104 a barrel.

Meanwhile, rising gas prices have led to a jump in sales for hybrids.  Toyota says global hybrid sales topped three million, with a surging demand for the Prius. The same can't be said for the plug-in electric cars Volt from Chevy and Nissan's Leaf, however: sales for both have been extremely weak.

On another note, high fuel prices have also prompted the world's biggest airline carrier, United Continental, to scrap its 2011 growth plans, saying it will cut unprofitable routes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How to Avoid Rising Plane Fares and Fees

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The airline industry is looking to add new fees for travelers in response to the rising price of oil that has sent fuel costs soaring.  So how can consumers fight back against high fares and more costs?

"They have to be flexible.  Airlines love people that have to go on a certain day and a certain time," says Rick Seany, CEO of the travel website

Seany suggests travelers should "fly on Tuesday, Wednesday [or] Saturday, which are the cheapest days."

As for when to buy a ticket, "the best time to shop is Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. EST and be careful about shopping on the weekends," says Seany.  The cheapest fare may not be available by the end of the week -- some deals run out on Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Unlikely to Tap into Strategic Oil Reserves, Experts Say

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With gasoline prices soaring fast, there has been some talk by the Obama administration to tap into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help ease some of the pain at the pump.

But most fuel analysts say it's not worth the effort, even as prices have zoomed up 40 cents a gallon in the past month because of unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa.

White House chief of staff Bill Daley has talked about releasing just over four million barrels from the reserve, which is currently at its capacity of 727 million barrels.

While four million sounds impressive, it's not.  That's the equivalent of what U.S. motorists use in just a half a day of driving.

There are reasons to leave the Strategic Petroleum Reserve alone.  Analysts explain that crude stockpiles are now above their four-year average and there's not been steep decline in oil imports, despite all the problems in Libya and elsewhere.

Still, futures traders are exploiting the crisis anyway, sending the price of crude well past $100 per barrel, which ultimately affects what we all pay at the pump.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Officials Hope for Foreclosure Deal Within Two Months

ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- Federal officials leading the investigation into allegations that mortgage companies broke state laws when processing foreclosures said Monday they hope to agree on a final settlement with banks within two months.
“What we’re really trying to do is change a dysfunctional system....We’re hopeful that we can reach a resolution that will be good for homeowners and good for the banks in the long run and most importantly good for the country,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the 50-state investigation, told reporters at a press conference in Washington on Monday.
Miller said he is hopeful they can wrap up the process in the next two months. “I mean a soft two, not quite a literal two, but I’m hoping,” he said.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper warned they should move quickly so uncertainty doesn’t linger too long. “We realize that the result that we come to can have an impact on the housing market and hence the economy. That’s why all of us at the table want it to be a positive impact and part of that is moving as quickly as we can,” he said.
Regulators and the state attorneys general are hoping to negotiate a settlement over the reported mortgage servicing problems, including the use of so-called “robo-signers” who rushed foreclosures through the system without properly reviewing the details of the cases.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Middle East Unrest Continues to Affect Stocks, Oil

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Monday was the second anniversary of the bull market.  But stocks added to Friday's losses.

Stocks gave up earlier gains, as higher oil prices continued to be a drag on the market. Oil prices continued to rise as fighting intensified between Libyan government forces and rebels, hitting a two-year high. Prices moved close to $107 a barrel before retreating to about $105.

The Dow lost 80 points at 12,090 while NASDAQ was down 39 points. S&P closed down 11.

Economic growth across the Middle East could take a significant hit because of the political upheaval in the region.  A senior analyst at Moody's credit agency said as much as two percent of economic growth could be wiped out this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Soaring Fuel Costs Spark New Airline Fees

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Feel like you’ve been nickled and dimed to death by the airlines? If so, get ready for even more new fees.

“I don’t think that there’s anything that’s off the table in the airline industry,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of the travel website

“The major new one that’s out there is actually charging for your seat assignment,” Seaney said.  “I think families of four will start paying anywhere from $10 to $16 to start picking their seats.”

Only elite or business and first-class passengers would be exempt from the airlines’ proposed seat assignment fee.  “What they’ll do probably is allow you to have it for free only if you want to book it in the last 24 hours.  But if you want to have it pre-confirmed you’ll have to pay a fee.”

Sky-high fuel costs are behind the latest round of added fees.  The soaring price of oil is burning through the industry’s profit margins.  American Airlines, United Continental and Delta are among the carriers considering various new fees that include charging for customized travel experiences.  In future, you may be able to get fancy food and champagne in economy class – if you pay extra. Access to priority security lines and travel concierge services are also being considered.

Airlines prefer complex fees to additional fare hikes.  Already the industry has announced six domestic fare increases this year.

JetBlue and Southwest don’t charge an extra fee for checked bags.  But other airlines do.  If more fees are added by some airlines, but not others, it makes it harder for consumers to make comparisons.  

Seaney says when you book a trip, make sure to understand the total cost, which includes all fees and taxes – and be flexible.

“Airlines love people who have to go on a certain day at a certain time,” Seaney said.

Those passengers will always pay more than bargain hunters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gas: California Most Expensive State Average, $5.39 in Orlando

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As hostilities continued in Libya, crude oil futures reached $106.95 a barrel in early trading Monday -- up $2.53 from Friday's settled price of $104.42 -- according to the New York Mercantile Exchange . Analysts expect the Department of Energy's weekly national average gas price, released at 5 p.m. ET, to increase as well.

After the biggest one-week rise in oil prices in two years, weekly gas prices increased 6 percent last week, according to the Department of Energy. The national average is $3.38 per gallon, an increase of 19 cents from the previous week and 68 cents from the previous year. The least expensive gas is in the Rocky Mountain region: $3.18 a gallon. According to AAA's daily gas prices, California has the most expensive gas at $3.90 for regular grade.

In Orlando, Fla., one gas station that is closest to the airport was selling gas at $5.39 on Monday, 10 cents more than last week's price of $5.29.

Although unrest in Libya has not yet disrupted global oil supply significantly, analysts have said the markets remain concerned the revolts percolating in the Middle East will affect supplies in the top oil exporters in the world, such as Algeria, Iran, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

And as concerns about oil prices continue to increase, so has discussion about opening up the nation's petroleum reserve.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stocks Down in Midday Trading; Fed Prepping for QE3?

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- QE3: It might be coming if oil prices continue to soar.

A top official at the Federal Reserve predicts further easing of monetary policy might happen. Right now the Fed is buying government bonds to boost the economy. That policy -- quantitative easing -- has been dubbed QE2. Dennis Lockhart, head of the Atlanta Fed, says an expansion is possible if another recession is considered likely.

Rising gasoline prices threaten to cut other forms of spending by consumers. Global crude rose again early Monday morning -- since then, oil futures are off their highs.

Stocks are down so far Monday with concerns about what oil will do to the economy. Gold is up $3 an ounce to $1431 an ounce.

Greece's debt rating has been cut with fresh concerns about a default.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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