High pump prices cut into April gasoline demand: API

WASHINGTON Fri May 20, 2011 10:35am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. gasoline demand fell in April for the time in three months as high pump prices and expensive grocery bills took their toll on drivers, the American Petroleum Institute said on Friday.

Total U.S. crude oil and petroleum product consumption jumped 5.2 percent in April from a year earlier to 19.886 million barrels per day, according to the API's monthly supply and demand report.

"Growth in product demand was mixed as the U.S. economy struggled to gain momentum," said API chief economist John Felmy. "Gasoline demand was still up for the year to date over a year ago, but recent higher gasoline and food prices appear to have encouraged consumers to cut back in their driving."

Deliveries, which are a good indicator of demand, are calculated by API to reflect petroleum products moved from refineries and bulk storage to wholesale and retail suppliers.

API's total oil demand figure for April is much higher than the U.S. Energy Information Administration's preliminary estimate of fuel consumption at 19.050 million bpd for the month. The EIA issues its revised April demand number at the end of June.

U.S. gasoline demand for April fell 2.2 percent to 8.906 million bpd, as the average pump price increased 24 cents a gallon during the month. Gasoline use was still up 0.8 percent during the first fourth months of this year.

Gasoline production at U.S. refineries in April also declined for the first time this year, but still was the second highest for the month in the past 10 years.

Demand for distillates, which included heating oil and diesel fuel, soared 15.2 percent to 4.270 million bpd.

"Deliveries of ultra-low sulfur distillate, the fuel used in commercial trucking, surged, suggesting continuing forward motion in the economy," Felmy said.

Jet fuel demand in April increased 1.9 percent to 1.418 million bpd, while residual fuel use fell 0.5 percent to 575,000 bpd.

On the supply side, U.S. monthly crude oil production declined 0.5 percent to 5.467 million bpd.

Crude oil and petroleum product imports averaged 11.272 million bpd, down 9.9 percent from a year ago, leaving the U.S. a net exporter of refined products.

"A relatively weak dollar and strong product output from refiners continued to boost petroleum exports this year," API said.

Total imports in April accounted for 56.6 percent of U.S. oil demand, down from 66.1 percent a year earlier.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett, additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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