Retail gasoline demand down vs year ago: MasterCard

NEW YORK Tue Jun 10, 2008 2:03pm EDT

1 of 2. A gasoline tanker truck is shown during morning rush hour on a freeway in Los Angeles, June 10, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. retail gasoline demand slipped 3.8 percent from last year's levels, as gasoline prices posted yet another record high last week, MasterCard Advisors said Tuesday.

Year-to-date, American gasoline consumption is down 1.9 percent from last year's levels, according to MasterCard's weekly Spendingpulse report.

"The regional year-over-year view shows all regions are consuming less gasoline when compared to a similar week in 2007," said Michael McNamara, vice president of MasterCard Advisors.

The West Coast, which also has the highest gasoline prices, had the most significant decrease in gasoline demand, McNamara added.

Motorists pumped an average of 9.086 million barrels per day in the week that ended June 6, a slight increase of 0.5 percent from the levels of the previous week.

"Gasoline consumption increased due to typical seasonal cycles, while gasoline prices keep rising," McNamara said of the week-to-week increase.

Despite last week's small increase in demand, the week ending June 6 marked the seventh straight week that gasoline demand has been below 2007 levels, according to MasterCard.

Meanwhile, average retail gasoline prices were up 3 cents at $3.97 per gallon, according to the MasterCard report. The average price of retail gasoline has increased 91 cents since the beginning of 2008.

The four-week moving average for gasoline demand fell 5.2 percent from last year's levels to 9.163 million barrels per day.

"The four-week moving average, which tends to smooth seasonal fluctuations, indicates that Americans are changing driving habits and consuming less gasoline," McNamara said.

MasterCard Advisors estimates retail gasoline demand based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments system coupled with estimates for all other payment forms. MasterCard Advisors is a unit of MasterCard Inc.

(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by John Picinich)

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