WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Gasoline imports have averaged more than 1 million barrels per day in the past six weeks --- the second longest streak ever, reported the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The longest streak was a nine-week period following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During the most recent four-week period, gasoline imports have been 30 percent higher than those seen during the same stretch of time in 2005, the EIA said. This is despite the fact that gasoline inventories are already above typical levels for this time of year. “Some analysts had been expecting gasoline imports to drop significantly, reflecting the recent decline in price differentials between European and United States gasoline markets. But, as is the case with crude oil, many analysts expect gasoline prices to go significantly higher later this year, particularly given the potential for distribution problems related to the transition from MTBE to ethanol in reformulated gasoline,” the EIA said in its most recent weekly petroleum report, released yesterday. Further, the EIA pointed out, some analysts anticipate that currently high inventory levels may be drawn down soon if demand remains high and gasoline production stays low because of refinery maintenance. “The bottom line is that if one expects gasoline prices to be significantly higher later this year, then it may make economic sense to buy now, even if that results in adding to what may appear to be already abundant inventory levels,” the EIA said. Crude oil imports over the past four weeks are down slightly compared to the same period in 2005. However, crude oil prices are $5 to $10 per barrel higher than a year ago, and crude oil inventories are nearly 32 million barrels higher.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials