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Gasoline Use Falls to Eight-Month Low on Sandy, MasterCard Says

U.S. gasoline demand slid 2.4 percent last week to an eight-month low as Hurricane Sandy disrupted travel and supply distribution on the East Coast, according to data from MasterCard Inc.

Drivers bought 8.455 million barrels a day of gasoline in the week ended Nov. 2, down from 8.661 million the prior week, MasterCard’s SpendingPulse report showed today.

The biggest decline came in the New England, which dropped 3.9 percent. Consumption across the Central Atlantic region, which includes New York and New Jersey, sank 3.6 percent as refineries, fuel terminals, ports, pipelines and filling stations shut in the wake of the largest tropical storm on record in the Atlantic.

Demand might have been lower except that the seven days included in the report include the weekend before the storm’s Oct. 29 landfall in New Jersey when drivers were filling their tanks before the hurricane, said John Gamel, a gasoline analyst and director of economic analysis for SpendingPulse.

“Then, we did see a sharp decline Tuesday and Wednesday after the storm,” Gamel said in an interview. “There definitely is pent-up demand out there. A lot depends on what supply they can get to the affected areas.”

Fuel consumption nationwide last week and over the past four weeks was 2.4 percent below a year earlier. The four-week average has been down from the previous year every week but one since March 18, 2011.

Lowest, Highest

The lowest demand this year through Oct. 26 was 8.01 million barrels on Feb. 10. The highest consumption level reached was 9.36 million barrels on May 25.

The average pump price fell 10 cents in the past week to $3.52 a gallon. Drivers are paying 2.6 percent more than a year earlier. Prices reached a year-to-date peak of $3.94 on April 6.

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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