* U.S. gasoline demand down almost 0.7 mln bpd in 5 yrs
* Analyst sees "new era" of lower US gasoline demand
* Demand for distillate fuels down in January too
(Recasts, adds more details from report, analyst comment)
By David Sheppard and Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, April 2 Higher gasoline
prices have cut demand in the United States to the lowest level
for the month of January since 2001, data for from the Energy
Information Administration (EIA) showed on Monday.
Total U.S. oil demand fell almost 4.5 percent in January
from a year earlier, the statistical arm of the Department of
Energy said in its Petroleum Supply Monthly report, declining by
853,000 barrels per day to 18.27 million bpd.
The number was revised slightly higher by 169,000 bpd from
an earlier estimate, but still illustrates the outsized impact
rising prices have had on demand in the world's largest oil
consumer, despite a modest recovery in the U.S. economy.
Gasoline demand fell 225,800 bpd to 8.19 million bpd, the
lowest January demand in more than a decade. The figure was
revised slightly higher from the previous demand estimate of
8.06 million bpd. Month-on-month gasoline demand was down by
472,500 bpd from December.
The latest data means U.S. gasoline demand has fallen by
nearly 700,000 bpd since January 2007.
"We're looking at a new era," said Phil Flynn, analyst at
PFGBest in Chicago.
"There has been long-term demand destruction since the
financial crisis that simply isn't coming back."
The average price for gasoline at the pump rose to $3.40 a
gallon in January 2012, up by more than 30 cents on last January
due to higher crude prices, the EIA said.
Gasoline prices have continued to rise since then, despite
the fall in demand, hitting an average of $3.88 at the end of
March, according to data compiled by MasterCard.
PRICES STAY HIGH
Demand for distillate fuels, which include diesel and
heating oil, was also lower, falling by 157,700 bpd or 4 pct on
January last year to 3.81 million bpd.
International benchmark Brent crude oil, the price
most commonly used by East Coast and Gulf Coast refiners,
averaged around $110 a barrel in January 2012 compared with $100
in the same month last year.
Since then, it has rallied to more than $125 a barrel due to
tensions with Iran over that country's nuclear program, with
some saying prices could rise more as U.S. summer arrives and
more drivers take to the roads.
A report published by Credit Suisse on Monday showed the
price of crude oil now makes up 72 percent of what U.S.
consumers pay for gasoline at the pump, compared with an average
of 51 percent between 2001 and 2009.
As crude prices have risen, taxes have fallen to 11 percent
of the total U.S. consumers pay compared with an average of 22
percent in the last decade. Refining and marketing margins have
also been squeezed, falling to a combined total of 17 percent
from 27 percent.
"A legitimate worry now is that prices won't retreat much,"
Credit Suisse analyst Jan Stuart said.
"Indeed, normal seasonal trends strongly argue in favor of
second and third quarter oil prices reaching some 10 percent
above those prevailing in the first quarter."
Brent crude oil rallied by $2.55 on Monday to settle at
$125.43 a barrel.
(Reporting by David Sheppard and Timothy Gardner; Editing by
David Gregorio and Alden Bentley)