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U.S. Fuel Demand Climbed in March, First Quarter, API Reports

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April 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. fuel demand rose in March as prices climbed to the highest level in 30 months amid signs the economy is rebounding, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of demand, climbed 7.3 percent to 20.5 million barrels a day last month from a year earlier, the industry-funded group said today in a report. First-quarter deliveries gained 5.5 percent from the year-earlier period.

Gasoline consumption increased 6.1 percent to 9.32 million barrels a day from the same month last year as first-quarter usage rose 4.1 percent to 9.01 million.

“The positive economic effects are outweighing some of the price effects,” John Felmy, chief economist with the Washington-based API, said in a telephone interview.

Demand for distillate fuel rose 11 percent to 4.28 million barrels a day in March. Consumption of ultra-low sulfur diesel, the type used on highways, climbed 21 percent to average 3.29 million barrels a day, the report showed. Quarterly figures showed distillate demand up 8 percent to 4.09 million. Ultra-low sulfur diesel use rose 13 percent to 3.24 million.

Heating oil consumption surged 72 percent to 917,000 barrels a day in March and 40 percent in the first quarter to 819,000 barrels.

Jet-fuel use climbed 2.2 percent to an average 1.48 million barrels a day last month. It gained 2.7 percent in the quarter to 1.42 million.

API also reported record refinery production in both March and the first quarter. Gasoline output jumped 4.9 percent in March, and distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel increased 22 percent.

“There’s a lot of product out there, it just costs more to make,” Felmy said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margot Habiby in Dallas at mhabiby@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Banker at bbanker@bloomberg.net.

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