U.S. motorists kept pedal to metal in November, upping mileage

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 20, 2015 6:12 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. motorists drove 1.1 percent more miles in November than a year earlier, federal data released on Tuesday showed, as slumping gasoline prices fuel what could be the biggest annual rise in domestic demand in three decades.

Drivers logged 241 billion vehicle miles in November, the most for the month since 2007, according to the Federal Highway Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Growth slowed after October's 2.6 percent annual rise, but cumulative travel miles were up 1.4 percent in the year through November versus the same period of 2013, the data show.

The increase in U.S. highway traffic could help put a floor on falling global oil prices, although overall demand is still below pre-crisis peaks and will be limited by the increasing fuel efficiency of the U.S. auto fleet. U.S. drivers consume nearly one-tenth of the world's oil.

U.S. average gasoline pump prices have fallen to nearly $2 a gallon, the lowest since 2009 and almost half what they were this summer, according to government data.

Gasoline consumption, meanwhile, has picked up substantially. In October, the last month for which detailed data are available, U.S. gasoline use reached 9.2 million barrels per day (bpd), the highest rate for that month since 2007 and a 2.8 percent increase from a year earlier.

Analysts at Raymond James Financial Inc predicted that U.S. gasoline use would rise 3 percent, or some 300,000 bpd, this year, a reversal from years of steady decline.

"While gasoline consumption is typically considered relatively price inelastic (i.e., not very price sensitive), we think this gasoline price correction will lead to the biggest surge in gasoline demand that the U.S. has seen in over three decades," they said in a report on Tuesday.

For more DOT data see: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/travel_monitoring/14novtvt/14novtvt.pdf

(Reporting by Jonathan Leff; Editing by Alan Crosby)