COLUMBUS, Ohio - Gasoline prices rose yesterday for the 48th straight day, matching a record going back to at least the 1970s, with prices now up nearly two-thirds since the beginning of the year even as demand from motorists remains weak.

Yet the oil prices that influence what drivers pay at the pump are taking a breather from a three-month rise, with benchmark crude for July delivery falling $1.42 to settle at $70.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude prices fell a total of nearly 3 percent Friday and yesterday.

The good news for consumers is that gasoline prices may be peaking in the next couple of days, analysts said. The national average yesterday was $2.67 a gallon, up a penny from Sunday and 37 cents higher than a month ago.

In Philadelphia and the four suburban counties in Pennsylvania, yesterday's average was $2.69 a gallon compared with $2.68 on Sunday. In the three suburban counties in South Jersey, the pump price rose two cents yesterday to an average of $2.51 a gallon.

Consumers are now paying about $1 billion a day for gasoline compared with about $600 million a day over New Year's weekend and $1.5 billion a day or more a year ago, according to Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.

But money flowing into energy markets continues to confound experts. Even as oil prices fell, natural gas prices surged more than 8 percent. Spiking natural gas prices would be a concern for everyone, from the heavy industries that use it to power factories to consumers who use it to heat their homes.