(Adds analyst comment)
By Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK May 31 U.S. gasoline demand fell
year-over-year for the third consecutive month in March,
according to federal data released Thursday, putting the country
on track for its first year-over-year decline since 2012.
Analysts and refiners have blamed the weakness on a host of
issues, from poor weather to record 2016 demand figures that
created a hard-to-top baseline.
The modest drop in U.S. gasoline demand was offset by strong
demand for distillates, helping push total oil demand up by 2.1
percent in March versus last year, according to EIA's Petroleum
Supply Monthly report.
U.S. gasoline demand fell by 0.5 percent to 9.353 million
barrels per day in March versus last year, EIA data shows.
Demand fell by 1.9 percent in January and 2.4 percent in
"Given the slowness in the first quarter, it makes it likely
that we will see year-over-year declines," said Robert Campbell,
head of oil products markets at consultancy Energy Aspects.
Demand in early 2016 was strong, driven in part by gasoline
prices that fell below $2 a gallon for the first time since
2009, Campbell said.
Many analysts still expect gasoline demand to rise modestly
from last year's record levels, but stubbornly high inventories
are expected to weigh on refining margins.
U.S. gasoline demand, which accounts for 10 percent of
global consumption, has risen each year since 2012.
U.S. distillate demand was up 5.4 percent to 4.15 million
bpd in March compared with last year, EIA data showed.
The weak U.S. gasoline is at odds with driving volumes,
which are on pace for another record year, federal data shows,
suggesting stronger fuel efficiency standards are starting to
Motorists logged 272 billion miles (438 billion km) on U.S.
roads and highways in March, a 0.8 percent increase
year-on-year, according to the latest data released on Tuesday
by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. vehicle miles traveled were up 1.5 percent
year-over-year through the first three months of 2017.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and