Saturday, September 10, 2005

Trend or anomaly?

It will take a few weeks of data to see.

WSJ: U.S. Gasoline Use Fell 4% Last Week. [$]


Americans used 4% less gasoline amid skyrocketing pump prices last week than they did the week before Hurricane Katrina hit, the federal government reported. But whether that indicates consumers have decided to conserve or merely that they couldn't find all the gasoline they wanted isn't clear.

The figures didn't include data from the Labor Day weekend or from this week. It's also unclear whether the weather simply reduced driving in the affected states, though government analysts doubted that explained the full drop. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, a Wall, N.J., industry-research firm, said fuel retailers he has talked to have reported a particularly large drop-off in demand since Saturday. "It dropped off the table," he said -- a shift that, if true, wouldn't be reflected until the next government report, due out next week.

Yesterday's EIA numbers were the second indication in as many days that Americans might be tempering their consumptive ways in response to sharply higher gasoline prices. On Wednesday, the EIA slashed its prediction for U.S. oil-demand growth for the full year, "largely due to higher prices."