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U.S. Gasoline Use Fell to Lowest March Level in 13 Years

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April 18 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. gasoline use fell in March to the lowest level for the month in 13 years as weaker economic growth reduced demand, the American Petroleum Institute said.

Gasoline deliveries, a measure of demand, dropped 2.3 percent from a year ago to 8.43 million barrels a day, the API said today in a report. Total petroleum consumption rose 0.6 percent, driven by a jump in heating oil. U.S. non-farm payrolls climbed 88,000 in March, the smallest gain in nine months, as the jobless rate stayed above 7 percent, a separate U.S. Labor Department report showed.

“Tepid growth and high unemployment are still burdening the economy and holding demand down,” John Felmy, the chief economist at the API, said in the report. “The recovery is a sputtering engine with a cylinder or two still not firing.”

Gasoline demand in the first quarter dropped 1.7 percent from a year ago to 8.34 million barrels a day, the industry-funded API said.

Total oil consumption rose to 18.3 million barrels a day. Demand for high sulfur distillate fuel, used as heating oil, jumped 37 percent to 395,000 barrels a day.

The increase in heating oil use was “driven by the relatively colder weather in March,” the API said. Heating degree days, a measure of demand, averaged 660 in the month, up 75 percent, or 283, from a year ago, according to National Weather Service.

Heating Oil

Strong demand for heating oil helped raise consumption of distillate fuel by 5 percent to 3.89 million barrels a day in March. Demand for ultra-low-sulfur diesel, the distillate used by the trucking industry, gained 2.2 percent to 3.49 million.

Jet fuel consumption decreased 2.6 percent from a year earlier to 1.35 million barrels a day. Demand for all other oils, a category that includes liquefied petroleum gas, increased 6.7 percent to 4.28 million.

U.S. crude-oil production jumped 14 percent from a year earlier to 7.15 million barrels a day, the highest March output in 21 years, according to API. Production rose 15 percent in the lower 48 states to 6.57 million barrels a day and rose 1.2 percent to 574,000 in Alaska.

To contact the reporter on this story: Moming Zhou in New York at mzhou29@bloomberg.net

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

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