NEW YORK -- Oil prices took a breather on Monday, falling slightly as investors booked some profits after a seven-day surge. Retail gasoline prices continued to climb, adding five cents over the weekend for a national average of $3.70 per gallon.
Benchmark crude fell by $1.20 to $108.57 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil that's imported by U.S. refineries, lost $1.27 to $124.20 per barrel in London.
Analysts say a standoff between the West and Iran over its nuclear program continues to keep oil prices around nine-month highs. But some traders sold contracts to lock in profits following a 9 percent rise since Valentine's Day.
"Some people are getting out now just because oil is at those high levels," PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn said.
Western nations fear that Iran is building a nuclear weapon and have been trying to get international inspectors into its facilities. Iran denies the claim and has threatened to disrupt oil supplies in response to any threats.
Meanwhile, gasoline prices continue to rise in the U.S. The national average of $3.70 is the highest ever for this time of year. Drivers are paying an average of $4.29 per gallon in California. The price is above $4 per gallon in Alaska and Hawaii, and it's about $3.95 per gallon in Connecticut and New York. Some analysts think the national average will hit $4.25 a gallon by April, if not sooner.
In some isolated cases around the country, gas is already going for more than $5 a gallon.
In other energy trading, heating oil fell by 3 cents to $3.28 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 2 cents at $3.13 per gallon. Natural gas futures fell by11 cents to $2.44 per 1,000 cubic feet.