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Looming $100 Oil and Soaring Inflation

Looming $100 Oil and Soaring Inflation

Apr 10, 2024

Looming $100 Oil and Soaring Inflation

In an ominous forecast for the global economy, experts predict that oil prices may surge to $100 per barrel, spelling trouble for consumers as gasoline prices could surpass $4 a gallon—a development that could have serious political implications for the Biden administration. According to Bloomberg, mounting geopolitical tensions, including OPEC's output cuts, Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian refineries, and Mexico's reduced exports to satisfy its local demand, have all contributed to the recent spike in oil prices, which peaked at $91 before retreating slightly.


However, the real accelerant to this potential economic conflagration lies in the impending actions of over 30 major central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, which are poised to slash interest rates in the latter half of 2024. The Federal Reserve, the de facto pace-setter for global monetary policy, holds considerable influence; when it adjusts rates, other central banks tend to follow suit to prevent their currencies from devaluing, much like the Japanese yen's steep decline over the last three years.

This coordinated move to cut rates is paradoxical given the well-established relationship between lower interest rates and heightened inflation. The rationale behind modern central banking is to manipulate interest rates to regulate inflation—decreasing rates to stimulate inflation and increasing them when inflation runs rampant. Despite this, the Fed appears set on reducing rates even as inflation has been on an alarming upward trajectory since October, with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) reaching an annualized rate of 5.4% in February.

One theory is that this strategy is being deployed to buoy President Joe Biden's economic performance before the next election. But this tactic risks igniting a "tissue fire" of borrowing and spending that could drive up prices across the board, leading to a scenario reminiscent of the 1970s when premature rate cuts by the Fed led to a protracted period of high inflation and unemployment, ultimately culminating in severe recessions.

Though President Biden could potentially tap into the remaining strategic petroleum reserve to mitigate rising oil prices, this would be a short-term fix that could compromise national security and emergency services in a genuine crisis. The looming question remains: Why is the Fed opting to cut rates in the face of rising inflation? As history may be on the verge of repeating itself, the potential for a drawn-out economic downturn akin to 2022 looms large, and the consequences could be felt for years to come.


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