The Straw That Potentially Breaks The Camels Back
by Lance Roberts
Back in December I penned an article about the potential for gasoline prices to rise quickly to catch up with surging oil prices. We said then “If we look at just the nominal price data going back to 1990 we can see that there is indeed a very high correlation between oil prices and gasoline prices. While divergences from each other do occur on occassion those divergences tend not to last for very long with gasoline usually correcting towards the price of oil.” That is precisely what has happened since the near $3 per gallon of gasoline this summer, which was an effective $60 billion tax break for consumers during the much anticipated retail shopping season, to near $3.50 a gallon today. That 16% rise in gasoline has now effectively wiped out the entire payroll tax cut being extended into 2012.
There has been a lot of media commentary as of late about the recovery in the economy. The dangerous assumption being made here is that the recent upticks in the economic data have come primarily at the expense of inventory restocking and end of year buying of capital goods by businesses to lock in tax credits. Extrapolating those bounces in the data well into the future can prove to be disappointing. Yet this is exactly what the the President’s current budget, which has been presented to Congress, has done. That budget plans for 3% or stronger economic growth over the next 6 years. This is a pretty lofty goal which considering last years growth was a paltry 1.7%. However, in order to acheive a 3% plus growth rate the consumer is going to have to should 2.1% of that load through consumption.