The upward pressure on oil prices has been precipitated by geopolitical factors affecting supply–one of which is sanctions imposed against the purchase of Iranian oil have caused the U.S. to consider tapping into emergency oil reserves.
The possible tipping point for a recession would be a scenario in which oil prices reach the $150 threshold. Investment research firm Sanford C. Bernstein made a prediction that crude could reach $150 a barrel, but over the next several years rather than a quick surge.
However, the Iranian sanctions could cause enough of a supply disruption if its effects are farther-reaching than anticipated.
“If we do get oil prices of $100, $125 or $150, you reach a severe pain threshold, and not just for the U.S.” said Bernard Baumohl, chief economist of the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, New Jersey. “There’s nothing vague or ambiguous about it. You reach a pain threshold in the triple digits, and there is a much higher probability of a global downturn. … It would be cataclysmic.’’
Furthermore, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gave his semiannual testimony to Congress last week, citing continued growth and expansion with hints of rate spikes to come. Any ruminations of further expansion could be put to rest should the thought of $150 oil prices become reality.
“I think $150 oil in a short period would suck the wind out of the expansion,” said Zandi. “Recession risks would be very high.”
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