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KAI RYSSDAL: There is a reading-the-tea-leaves aspect to all of this. But a quick look around the commodities markets today offers some very different, and all equally reasonable, interpretations of the health of the American economy.
Oil, as I mentioned, hit a record today. Not adjusted for inflation, mind you. Also not traditionally a sign of a looming recession. Gold's somewhere north of $710 an ounce. That's a 16-month high for the safest of safe havens. And then there's the dollar. As much a commodity as anything else out there. The greenback fell to an all-time low against the Euro today -- $1.39 to the single currency, if you're the type who likes specifics. Mostly on speculation that the Federal Reserve's going to cut interest rates. Which it may well do when it meets next Tuesday.
But, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports from London, those cuts may have to be steeper than anybody expected.
Stephen Beard: The dollar has been declining all year. But this week the slide accelerated after Friday's payroll figures. It appeared that the sinking real estate market is taking jobs down with it. And that, says currency fund manager Neil Mackinnon, is further undermining the greenback.
NEIL MACKINNON: When we're in a situation where economic growth is slowing as it is in the U.S. economy, where there seems to be a growing risk of recession, the markets startS to discount lower interest rates.
Lower rates make the dollar a less-attractive investment. Currency traders in London say the greenback could look even less appealing next week. The Fed could cut rates by half of 1 percent to stave off recession. And the prospect of a recession loomed a bit larger today because of oil. Crude briefly touched a record price of $80 a barrel, and this in spite of OPEC's decision to increase production. The problem for the U.S., says analyst Michael Hughes, is that demand for oil is still soaring in countries like China and India.
MICHAEL HUGHES: The demand for oil from the emerging economies has now overtaken the demand for oil from the developed economies and, hence, people are forecasting oil prices of over $90.
Caught between the rising price of oil and a slowing economy, the U.S. faces a painful winter, say the analysts. And the U.S. dollar could face a further pummelling in the currency markets.
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.