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PURCHASE, N.Y. -- U.S. retail gasoline demand rose for the second week in a row as falling retail prices spurred consumer demand, according to the most recent MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report.
Demand still trailed year-ago levels, but was down 1.2 percent, the smallest drop since April, according to the report from MasterCard and Reuters. American motorists pumped an average of 9.203 million barrels per day in the week that ended Nov. 21, up 1.9 percent from the previous week.
"We have seen consumer driving habits return to somewhat normal levels over the past six weeks," said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors.
McNamara said the Thanksgiving holiday skews the demand numbers as demand drops in the beginning of the week and then picks up dramatically on Thursday, the day of the holiday, Reuters reported.
"You have to take the next two weeks together," he said.
The 1.2 percent drop against year-ago levels was the lowest decline in seven months. The four-week moving average for gasoline demand was also lower, down 3 percent from a year ago.
National average prices slid 15 cents, or about 7 percent, to $2.01 per gallon, near levels seen in March 2005, Reuters noted.
McNamara said prices are down about 35 percent year over year, and the national price threshold is nearing $2 a gallon for the first time in about three and a half years.