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Saturday, 05/16/2020 12:27:54 PM

Saturday, May 16, 2020 12:27:54 PM

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Signs of a rebound in gasoline demand hint at higher oil prices

Published: May 14, 2020 at 3:18 p.m. ET
By Myra P. Saefong

April U.S. motor gasoline deliveries fell 31.1% month on month: AP

Gasoline demand in April suffered its worst month on record, but signs of rebound in consumption as some U.S. states emerge from COVID-19 related lockdowns may offer an indication for higher oil prices ahead.

The faster gasoline ‘sees demand improvement, the faster the underlying barrel of oil will rally.’
— Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy

“The largest portion of a barrel of oil is refined into gasoline here in the U.S.,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “The faster that portion of the refined barrel sees demand improvement, the faster the underlying barrel of oil will rally.”

April U.S. motor gasoline deliveries, a demand indicator, fell by 31.1% month on month, the largest monthly decrease on record, according to a report Thursday from the American Petroleum Institute. Demand for the month was at 5.7 million barrels a day, the lowest demand for any month since January 1972.

However, as some states have re-opened non-essential businesses, fuel-price tracker GasBuddy pointed out that demand in the last week of April rebounded by 22% from the lowest overall week of gasoline demand on April 5 to April 11.

“There was a lot of ugliness in the downstream petroleum sector, but there’s just a few ounces of sunlight now starting to come into the picture for select segments, like gasoline,” De Haan told MarketWatch.

The “ultra-low prices” for gasoline “appear to be behind us,” he said. The national average remains well below a year ago at just over $1 a gallon, and De Haan said he expects “the gap will narrow slightly” this summer, perhaps down 50 cents to 75 cents a gallon from year-ago levels. “That means there’s potential for further price increases.”
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