While many are looking at problems in emerging market countries like Turkey and Argentina, there may be an even bigger threat to US markets – higher energy costs.
Besides the run up in natural gas, crude oil in the United States is getting close to $100 per barrel.
How worried should the US markets be?
CNBC contributor Andrew Busch, editor and publisher of The Busch Update, believes that while higher natural gas and oil prices are a short-term concern, it will have an effect on consumer spending.
“A 50% increase (in natural gas prices) is significant,” says Busch. “That takes money out of consumers' pockets, as does the rise in gasoline prices and, of course, oil prices.”
Busch says that just a single penny increase per gallon of gasoline takes $1 billion out of consumer spending nationally.
“That, combined with natural gas,” says Busch, “is going to impact consumer spending, specifically non-core discretionary spending. I expect that to take a big hit in January.”
Steven Pytlar, Chief Equity Strategist at Prime Executions, says higher energy costs are not necessarily a bad sign for stocks. Charting the change between the market benchmark S&P 500 index and West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil since the market’s bottom in March 20009, Pytlar notes that oil and stocks seem to move in the same direction much of the time.
“The month-over-month price change in crude oil prices tends to trend with the change in the equity prices,” says Pytlar. “The reason for this is that higher energy prices generally happen when there's an expanding economy. There's more demand for these products. That same environment benefits equities.”
During an expanding economy, the demand for energy is expected to rise as it’s needed to keep factories and businesses running. That can be a positive indicator for stocks, says Pytlar. But, when the economy is contracting, that’s when rising energy prices start to eat into growth rather than be a sign of it.
“But, we don't think we're close to that yet,” says Pytlar. “[We are] still, looking at higher crude oil prices as an expression of a better economy and a positive indicator for the S&P.”
To see the rest of the discussion on whether stock investors should be worried about higher energy prices, watch the video above.
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