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When the economy gets a 20 percent discount

Scott Tong Oct 20, 2014
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When the economy gets a 20 percent discount

Scott Tong Oct 20, 2014
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The impact of low oil prices is juicing American families’ pocketbooks in a way similar to a stimulus package, especially if crude stays low. Call it what you want: crude oil dividend, discount, energy quantitative easing.

Oil is 25 percent cheaper since the summer. And for drivers, the stimulus is instant.

“Every additional dollar or two you save at the pump you can use as disposable income right away,” says economist Ed Hirs of Hillhouse Resources and the University of Houston. “ Now you have more money for fast food. Or the six-pack of beer that you’ve been foregoing the past year or two.”

If oil prices stay low, and many bet it will, the savings will add up to a $200 billion domestic annual stimulus, estimates Citigroup. That’s about the size of the congressional stimulus in 2008. Citi figures the global economic boost is $1.1 trillion – again, annually.

Economist Stephen Brown at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas figures the typical American family saves $40 a month with today’s prices.

“Consumers in Washington D.C., New York and California, among a variety of areas in the United States will all see benefits,” Brown says.

But, he says, fortunes flip for energy producers. States like North Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma had benefited from high prices.

Similarly, global petro-states like Venezuela are also hurting from low prices.

“It limits the ability to be able to spend on the more expensive social programs you have within Venezuela,” says global oil analyst Jamie Webster of consultancy IHS-CERA. “It just puts additional pressure on the government there.”

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