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Gas prices, still climbing, are now just one thin dime from $4 a gallon

Gas prices jumped 5 cents a gallon last week on average, says AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, even as oil prices stabilized a bit. When gas prices reach $4 a gallon, motorists begin to change their habits.

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In this photo taken last week, a motorist pumps gas at a Mount Lebanon, Pa., mini-mart. Over the past week, gas prices rose another 5 cents a gallon, and are now just one dime from $4 a gallon.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

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Gas prices were only 10 cents away on Monday from moving to a national average of $4 a gallon.

Over the past week, the price of fuel rose another 5 cents a gallon and is up 23 cents a gallon from a month ago, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report.

Economists consider the steady increase in gas prices to be a threat to the economy, because consumer confidence erodes as people have less money in their pockets after they pay their gasoline bills. Although the price of gasoline has hit $4 a gallon before, that's the level at which some motorists begin to change their driving and buying habits, polls show. If average price of gasoline reaches $4 a gallon or breaks the past record of $4.11 set in July 2008, it is also likely to result in more rhetoric from the presidential candidates.

“There is a lot of frustration that motorists are feeling in their pocketbooks,” says Avery Ash, manager of government affairs for AAA in Washington. “If the average driver uses 90 gallons of fuel a month, it is now costing an extra $12.60 for gasoline” compared with last month.

Although gas prices continue to rise, the price of oil has steadied somewhat. On Monday, the price of West Texas Intermediate hovered at about $107 a barrel, close to the level as it has been for a few weeks.

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