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U.S. Gasoline Use Rises 7.7% as Shoppers Drive, MasterCard Says

U.S. gasoline demand rose 7.7 percent last week from the prior week, boosted by holiday shoppers, according to MasterCard Inc.

Drivers bought 9.46 million barrels a day of gasoline in the week ended Dec. 23, up from 8.78 million the week before, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse report.

Fuel use fell below a year earlier for the 17th consecutive time last week, slipping 1.6 percent from 2010 levels. Fuel demand over the previous four weeks was 3.6 percent below a year earlier, the 40th consecutive decline in that measure.

“We observed a noticeable week-to-week spike in gasoline consumption as many drivers hit the road,” John Gamel, a gasoline analyst and director of economic analysis for SpendingPulse, said in the report.

Gasoline consumption in 2011 through Dec. 23 is down 1.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the second-biggest payments network company.

The average pump price fell 4 cents to $3.23 a gallon, the lowest level since Feb. 18. Prices were 7.7 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. is the biggest payments network company by transactions processed.

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