Courtesy of Nicholas Santiago
Oil made a short term bottom on February 5th, 2010 after hitting an intra-day low price of 69.50. Since that time oil has rallied over 10 points to a high of 82.50 on March 9th, 2010. The continuous gasoline contract on the NYMEX was 1.87 on February 5th and it hit a recent high on March 9th at 2.29. These short term rallies for oil and gasoline have been powerful and very sharp. Can the U.S. consumer absorb these prices should they remain at these high levels?
In July of 2008 oil rallied to a high of 147 a barrel. At that time the NYMEX gasoline contract was around 3.40 and the price at the pump it was around 4.00 a gallon depending on your location in the country. A case can be made that this was the straw that broke the camels back and sent oil and the stock market into a virtual free fall.
Today most of talking heads and government figures talk about the so called economic recovery that is taking place in the United States. Meanwhile, unemployment in the U.S. is 9.7 percent according to government standards and nearly 20 percent according to others. The country is still facing a huge foreclosure problem with countless homes in default as we speak. All of this takes place as major global bank stocks continue to surge as the new accounting standards allow them to hide their bad or toxic assets.
The X-factor that many of the economists are overlooking is the high energy prices that plagued the market in 2008 and may certainly do it again in 2010. As many families scramble to keep their head above water the high energy prices will simply act as an automatic tax on the consumer. Regardless if this economy is in a deflationary spiral or an inflationary environment the price of necessary goods are going higher and will hurt consumers.
Oil and gasoline can be traded by using futures contracts or by trading the U.S. Oil Fund LP ETF (NYSE:USO), and for gasoline it can be traded by using the U.S. Gasoline Fund LP ETF (NYSE:UGA).