San Francisco Traffic Drop Shows Gasoline Rebound Still Elusive

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San Francisco traffic slowed further in January, adding to signs that California’s struggle with the pandemic continues to hobble a recovery in fuel demand.

About 8.6 million vehicles crossed seven San Francisco toll bridges in January, a 3.2% drop from December, according to data from the Bay Area Toll Authority. That follows a recent slump in Los Angeles. When compared to a year ago, daily traffic numbers have been 20% to 30% lower in the Bay Area.

California has surpassed 3.4 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, about the same as France. The state imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures in the country, which have been eased following widespread uproar.

In the U.S., the four-week average for gasoline demand has dropped since August to about 7.8 million barrels a day, the lowest this century for this time of year.

The survey covers most major toll spans in the San Francisco area, including the Bay Bridge linking the city to Oakland and carrying more than 100,000 vehicles per day.

California Clean Fuels Recover Faster Than Fossil Fuels: BNEF

Trimmed traffic has cut support for the cash market in northern California. Prompt gasoline in the area has been at a discount to New York gasoline futures since January 27.

Elsewhere, there are some signs of optimism. NuStar Energy LP said that flows of refined petroleum products on its pipelines were close to pre-pandemic levels, especially in South Texas. Valero Energy Corp., which has two refineries in California, said gasoline refining margins should be normal by summer.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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