Friday marked the 36th consecutive day of rising gas prices nationally, and AAA reports prices are expected to continue to climb for at least another month.

The average gas price in New Jersey was reported at $3.63 a gallon, a six-cent increase over the past week and nine cents higher than on this date a year ago, according to the weekly gas price report from AAA.

Prices usually increase as summer nears, but the organization said the increase is occurring earlier this year. The national average of $3.78 a gallon Friday was the highest ever for this date and the price has increased 46 cents a gallon over the past month — the largest single-month increase since June 2009, AAA reports.

The reason for the increase is that U.S. refineries performed seasonal maintenance and made the switch-over to summer blend gasoline production earlier in the year. This caused a decrease in the supply. Political turmoil in the Middle East, which exports a lot of gasoline, is another reason for the increase.

Prices for crude oil — another factor in gas prices — have started to ease, AAA reports.

Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the organization expects the prices to continue to rise but peak by April. The national average is not expected to hit the highs from 2011 — 3.98 on May 5 - or last year - $3.94 on April 5 and 6.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service and AAA gas price partner, believes the national gas price average will peak at about $3.95 by early April. "Whatever you pay on St. Patrick's Day will be considerably more than you'll pay on July 4 or Labor Day," he said.

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