The oil market is getting nervous about the depth of US drivers’ love of the road. Data show that domestic petrol use has softened in 2017. Last week, a majority of hedge funds and money managers swung their gasoline bets towards lower prices, the first sign of negativity in months. A closer look reveals a more complicated picture, however. Drivers may have started the year in low gear but the data are deceiving, a government statistician says. On Tuesday, Washington upgraded its forecast to say US gasoline consumption will match the record levels of 2016. The direction of US petrol use has important consequences for crude after it fell below $50 a barrel. At more than 9m barrels a day, it makes up nearly a tenth of world oil consumption. US figures are updated more frequently than elsewhere, drawing extra attention from traders. Several organisations have reported lower gasoline demand. The American Petroleum Institute, the oil trade group, stated falls of 2.6 per cent in January, 3.8 per cent in February and 1.7 per cent in March from the same months of 2016.