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Winter weather likely curbed U.S. fuel demand last week

The Marathon refinery is seen late evening in Carson, California. Data from the Energy Department show the amoutn of refined petroleum product supplied to the market is about 8% below year-ago levels. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 2 | The Marathon refinery is seen late evening in Carson, California. Data from the Energy Department show the amoutn of refined petroleum product supplied to the market is about 8% below year-ago levels. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. federal data published Thursday showed the total market demand for refined petroleum products declined, likely on the back of inclement winter weather in the northern parts of the country.

The Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, showed the total amount of refined petroleum product supplied to the market averaged 20 million barrels per day over the last four weeks to Feb. 17.

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Market watchers use that data as a proxy for consumer demand and EIA said the total amount of refined petroleum product supplied was about 8.4% below year-ago levels.That could be a reflection of severe winter weather more than economic headwinds.

Two winter storms disrupted travel across a large swathe of the country last week, from the northern Plains to the Upper Midwest. The same region was hit by a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain on Wednesday.

Several areas in and around southern Michigan were without power and internet on Thursday due to the storm and EIA data next week should reflect that.

The amount of refined petroleum products sent to the market, however, was only a few hundred thousand barrels shy of pre-pandemic levels, suggesting consumer demand is holding up.

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Consumer-level gasoline prices, meanwhile, could move lower given the increase in gasoline production. Production increased from 9.1 million barrels per day on Feb. 10 to 9.4 million bpd for the current reporting period.

Markets in general have been tempered lately by concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise its key lending rate by 50 basis points, or 0.5%, higher than the previous increase of 25 basis points, but lower than the 75 basis point increases that became the norm for 2022.

Crude oil prices, however, were in the black during the Thursday session, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, up about 1.5% as of noon EST to trade at $75.16 per barrel.

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