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Forget $100 oil. $80 oil is a problem

As The Reformed Broker noted in the last post, and as Phil has mentioned many times, while oil and stock prices are currently rising together, increased energy prices are not typically good for the consumer. – Ilene

Forget $100 oil. $80 oil is a problem

Energy prices don’t need to rise that much before a fragile consumer-led economy could face another setback.

Oil can and graph with American dollar

By Colin Barr, Fortune

Are cash-strapped American consumers on for another date with energy price misery?

The U.S. economy remains weak and one in six Americans can’t find enough work. Yet oil prices have risen steadily this year. A barrel of crude costs $79 and change, more than double its price at the end of 2008…

That could complicate recovery in an economy that, despite the tumult of the past two years, remains as consumer-driven as ever…

What’s more, the factors behind this spike seem apt to persist for some time. They include a pickup in global economic activity fueled by massive government spending, a decline in the purchasing power of the dollar as the U.S. holds interest rates near zero, and lack of new oil supplies coming online to meet future demand…

"Any time it gets above $3, it’s worth watching," said James D. Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California at San Diego. "When you get to that level, you start to see a change in behavior as budgets get squeezed."

Hamilton said the $3-a-gallon price is noteworthy because it’s around the level at which consumers are devoting 6% of their budgets to energy costs. Hitting that point in recent years seems to have prompted Americans to pull back…

"The price of oil played a bigger factor in the recession than people seem to be remembering," Hamilton said.

…Kopits warns that every recession since 1972 has been associated with an oil price surge that took U.S. oil consumption past 4% of gross domestic product. Today, he said, the magic number to get there is $80.

Full article here.

 


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