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Oil price keeps setting post-recession highs

Alisa Roth Mar 7, 2011

Oil price keeps setting post-recession highs

Alisa Roth Mar 7, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: Oil prices bumped right up against $107 a barrel today in New York. Missed it by a nickel: $106.95 at the close.

Rising crude has put a bit of a damper on stock prices. But so far, there hasn’t been much noticeable effect out in the real economy — the one where consumers live.

We asked Marketplace’s Alisa Roth what it might take for that to change.

Alisa Roth: It may not be oil prices we should worry about, but gas prices.

Jeffrey Cleveland is chief economist at Payden and Rygal, which is a money management firm.

Jeffrey Cleveland: My main concern is the impact on the consumer. Not so much on the inflation side, but on the consumer spending side.

He says spending by regular people is the key to the recovery. He thinks we might stop spending if oil were to get up to the $150-a-barrel range. He says the effects would be broad.

Cleveland: A pullback in auto sales, and that could feed through into U.S. economic growth; a pullback in miles driven, you can see that impact.

Basically, high gas prices force Americans to spend differently.

Ken Goldstein is at the Conference Board, which is a nonprofit business research organization. He thinks the economy would notice oil at $120 a barrel.

Ken Goldstein: That’s when it would being to really start to impact our lives, in the sense of the money going to the gas tank if it costs $50 or $75 to fill up that gas tank, that’s money that’s not available to fill up that grocery cart.

It’ll take much longer for high oil prices to show up in other parts of the economy. Goldstein says we can also feel a little reassured, because if natural gas and coal prices were higher, then we’d really be in trouble.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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