Gas Demand Up for First Time In Eight Months

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Gas Demand Up for First Time In Eight Months

NEW YORK -- Gasoline demand rose on a year-over-year basis for the first time in eight months, as prices at the pump declined for the 83rd day in a row, according to a report by

Demand ticked up a modest 0.3 percent year-over-year for the week ended Dec. 5, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse report, which tracks national retail sales. The last time demand showed a year-over-year bump up was the week that ended April 18, when it rose 3.1 percent.

That April increase, however, could be partially attributed to the Easter calendar shift. Holidays typically translate into increased driving, said Michael McNamara, vice president of SpendingPulse.

Demand seems to be more "normal" now, McNamara said. "Prices dropped so far so fast, and aggregate national driving behavior can't change that quickly. That's why demand numbers are much more steady than price."

Gas prices have tumbled some 59 percent from mid-July, when they topped $4 a gallon, noted.

On a weekly basis, demand dipped 0.3 percent, declining for the first time in a month. But the year-over-year figures are considered more significant than weekly fluctuations. Prices per gallon are more than $2 below their peak of $4.114 a gallon in July.

The holiday shopping season may bring more consumers to the pump, as a "ramp-up" occurs every year in those weeks, McNamara said. But in these volatile times, it's become difficult for anyone to predict what comes next.

"It's so hard to look forward, because there is no comparable time," McNamara said. "After the economic crisis really got started in September, all bets were off."

Regular unleaded fell 1.8 cents to $1.698 a gallon Tuesday, according to AAA's daily survey of gas station credit card swipes. According to MasterCard's survey, prices nationwide have tumbled between 38 percent and 43.4 percent from a year earlier.

The last time prices were this low was March 1, 2004, when gas was selling at an average of $1.69, CNNMoney reported.

The price of crude oil has fallen more than $100 a barrel since peaking at a record high of $147.27 in July, according to the report.