U.S. Gasoline Demand Slides 3.4 Percent, MasterCard Says

U.S. gasoline demand fell 3.4 percent last week, the biggest drop in 14 weeks, according to MasterCard Inc. (MA)

Drivers bought 8.76 million barrels a day of gasoline in the week ended Dec. 9, down from 9.06 million the week before, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse report.

Fuel use fell below a year earlier for the 15th consecutive time last week, slipping 4.6 percent from 2010 levels. Fuel demand over the previous four weeks was 4.2 percent below a year earlier, the 38th consecutive decline in that measure.

“We continue to observe consistent year-over-year declines in demand despite prices at the pump dropping nearly 20 cents in the past two months,” John Gamel, a gasoline analyst and director of economic analysis for SpendingPulse, said in the report.

Gasoline consumption in 2011 through Dec. 9 is down 1.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the second-biggest payments network company. Last week the gap was 1.5 percent.

On a regional basis, fuel demand fell in six of the seven geographic districts last week. The largest decline was in the Rocky Mountain region, where consumption retreated 5.9 percent.

The average pump price fell 1 cent to $3.29 a gallon, the lowest level since Feb. 25. Prices were 11 percent higher than a year earlier.

Gasoline demand peaked this year at 9.56 million barrels a day in the week ended July 1 as motorists filled their tanks before the July 4 holiday weekend. The lowest level of consumption came in the week ended Feb. 11 when consumers bought 8.47 million barrels a day.

The report from Purchase, New York-based MasterCard is assembled by MasterCard Advisors, the company’s consulting arm. The information is based on credit-card swipes and cash and check payments at about 140,000 U.S. gasoline stations.

Visa Inc. (V) is the biggest payments network company by transactions processed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barbara J Powell in Dallas at bpowell4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

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