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U.S. consumer demand for gasoline high

Wage growth and higher prices during the summer could pull on the throttle.

By Daniel J. Graeber
U.S. consumer demand for gasoline high
Consumer demand for gasoline increases as low oil prices make it cheaper to fuel up, industry report notes. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 17 (UPI) -- With gasoline prices still below what they were last year, U.S. consumer demand moved higher by about 2 percent, an industry report said.

In its monthly market report for May, the American Petroleum Institute said gasoline deliveries reached a record high for the month. At more than 9.4 million barrels per day, API found motor gasoline deliveries, a measure of demand, was up 2.1 percent year-on-year.

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"Consumers have been enjoying low prices at the pump and are driving more," Erica Bowman, a chief economist at the API, said in a statement.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline for May was 15 percent lower than it was last year. For full-year 2016, retail gasoline prices are expected to average $2.13 per gallon, the least expensive in years.

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Total demand for petroleum products, however, was down 0.1 percent from April, though still the highest it's been in eight years. The demand has strained a North American market pressured by lower production and supply shortages in May triggered in part by the loss of oil from wildfires in Alberta. Canada is the No. 1 oil exporter to the United States and, presumably drawing from elsewhere, API found total U.S. crude oil imports were up 11.5 percent from May 2015.

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Figures for June could show a different picture for consumers. Motor club AAA reports the national average retail price for a gallon of gasoline has increased about 5 percent since May. For hourly workers in the United States, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics finds no change in wages for May. Any increase in pay was offset by an increase in overall consumer prices, the labor department said.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen this week said average hourly earnings are up 2.5 percent from last year, though "recent labor market data have, on balance, been disappointing."

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