Rising energy prices have the potential to do serious and long-term damage to the global economy, says The Conference Board. That observation might seem obvious, but the global research and business organization suggests that many are underestimating the impact of soaring commodity prices, led by oil. Heavy infrastructure investment in China, driving the acceleration of global manufacturing, has been accompanied by low interest and inflation rates worldwide, and a shortfall in natural-resource investment. The result, says the board, could be a major economic crisis. "Despite recent dips in energy prices and holiday promotions, consumers across the U.S. will be hard hit in the short term." The board estimates that a permanent increase of 50 cents per gallon in the price of retail gasoline will cut real personal consumption by 1 percent to 1.5 percent within a year. Auto sales, already in the doldrums in many cases, will be especially hurt, as rising interest rates and post-hurricane price hikes take their toll.
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