By DAVID BIRD
NEW YORK -- US oil demand fell 4.3% in August to 18.6 million bpd, a 15-year low for the month, the American Petroleum Institute said Friday.
The industry group said demand in the first eight months of the year was down 2.6% from a year earlier.
Demand for gasoline, the most widely used petroleum product in the world's biggest oil consumer, dropped 0.4% from a year earlier, to 8.893 million bpd. Eight-month average demand of 8.725 million bpd was down 0.9% from the same time in 2011.
Demand for distillate fuel, the umbrella grouping for heating oil and diesel, fell 8.5% in August from a year earlier and is down 3% in the first eight months of 2012 compared with the same period of 2011.
Jet fuel use was 7.4% lower in August than a year earlier, and in the first eight months of the year was 2.5% below the demand level in the like period of last year.
Given the nation's weak employment situation, it's no surprise petroleum demand was off, said John Felmy, API chief economist. He said the weak demand figures also were impacted by a slowdown in the manufacturing sector.
Crude oil production in August fell 2.8% from July, as oil output in the Gulf of Mexico was curtailed by the storm that became Hurricane Isaac.
Lost output totaled as much as 1.3 million bpd, or 95% of the region's oil flow, the API said.
August oil output, though the lowest for any month so far in 2012, still topped 6 million bpd and was 7% above the year-ago level. Oil output averaged 6.2 million bpd in the first eight months of the year, up 11.9% from the same period in 2011.
Total refinery inputs and production of all four major products (gasoline, distillate, residual, and kerosene-jet fuel) fell in August.
However, production of these products was greater than demand, the API said, resulting in lower imports and higher exports.
Total imports of crude and refined products in August fell by 4.6% from a year ago, to 10.5 million bpd. For the first eight months of 2012, refined product imports were below export levels.
Crude oil stocks were up 2.7% in August from a year earlier, but down 1.9% from July levels to end August at 358.8 million bbl.
Stocks of all major products were down from last year's levels, with gasoline down 4.3% from August 2011 and 3% lower than in July 2012.
Dow Jones Newswires