Gasoline demand up on Ike recovery: MasterCard

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. retail gasoline demand increased last week as the Gulf Coast and lower Atlantic regions recovered from Hurricane Ike, MasterCard Advisors said Tuesday.

Consumption shot up about 10 percent in both Gulf Coast and lower Atlantic last week, bringing overall domestic demand up by 4.1 percent.

“Pretty significant increases on a week-to-week basis in both of those regions as they started to recover from the Ike supply disruptions,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors.

“There was actually some gasoline to pump down there,” he added.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut more than a dozen refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast’s refinery row in Texas and Louisiana, leading to supply outages.

American motorists pumped an average of 9.083 million barrels per day in the week ended Sept 26, MasterCard said in its weekly SpendingPulse report.

Despite last week’s increase, however, gasoline demand remained 4.7 percent below the same week last year, according to the report.

The four-week moving average for U.S. gasoline demand, which typically reflects larger trends, was likewise lower, by 5 percent, at 9.064 million bpd, marking the lowest four-week average since February 29.

While high prices have stifled demand to some extent, a weakening economy has contributed to a slowdown in gasoline demand, McNamara said.

Average national gasoline prices were off 1 cent at $3.83 per gallon.

Year-over-year, however, average gasoline prices are up 36.3 percent.

Meanwhile, in a Reuters poll, energy analysts forecast the Energy Information Administration would report a decline in U.S. gasoline inventories for the 10th week in a row in the wake of the storms. The EIA will release its weekly inventory report on Wednesday.

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