UPDATE 1-U.S. gasoline demand lower than a year ago-MasterCard

Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:20pm EST

(Adds details on gasoline price, weekly demand)

Dec 26 (Reuters) - U.S. retail gasoline demand fell sharply from year-ago levels with fewer drivers on the roads in the week before the Christmas holiday, MasterCard said in its weekly SpendingPulse report on Wednesday.

Gasoline demand in the week to Dec. 21 fell 5.4 percent from year-ago levels, the data showed. The four-week moving average for demand also fell last week, down 3.3 from year-ago levels.

Weekly demand, however, was 4.5 percent higher than the week to Dec 14.

At an average $3.23 a gallon, gasoline prices fell 8 cents from a week ago but were equal to levels recorded last year, MasterCard added.

MasterCard Advisors, a unit of MasterCard Inc, estimates retail gasoline demand based on aggregate sales in the MasterCard payments system coupled with estimates for other payment forms including cash and checks. (Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Steve Orlofsky)

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