Can the US economy handle $100 crude oil?


Oil prices spiked the most on record Monday after a weekend attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities wiped out more than 5% of the global oil supply.

Crude oil prices initially surged as much as 18%, but retreated after President Trump said he authorized the use of oil from the United States’ emergency oil supply, called the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, “if needed.” Brent crude (BZ=F) reached a session high of $71.95 a barrel at the opening, while U.S. crude futures (CL=F) surged to a session high of $63.34 a barrel.

The price spikes have some folks asking, is $100 oil back on the table? Highly unlikely, say experts.

“It would require the 5.7 billion barrels of [Saudi Arabian] crude oil to be offline for months,” Ashley Petersen, senior oil market analyst at Stratas Advisors, said on Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.”

“We’d also need to see retaliatory attacks, you’d really need an escalation. But we are going to see higher oil prices for the next couple of weeks,” she said.

The last time oil crossed the $100-a-barrel mark was in 2008, after political unrest in Nigeria and bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico disrupted supply. The assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also led to high political tensions in the Middle East. Oil wound up peaking at $145 a barrel in July of 2008.

$100 tips US into recession

Hugh Johnson, founder and chief investment officer at Hugh Johnson Advisors, said the economy simply couldn’t handle $100-a-barrel oil.

“It would cause a recession,” Johnson said. “It would be a hard landing, not a soft landing.”

Johnson said when it comes to oil prices, we’d do best to use history as our guide. “Look back to 1990 when we saw the price of oil increase $18 to $35 as Iraq invaded Kuwait. That led to that recession in August of 1990 to March of 1991,” he said.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

Today, the oil landscape is very different, according to Rob Thummel, portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors.

"The U.S. has been able to double production over the last several years so when we have a very significant event like this,” Thummel said, “we don't have a global economic crisis because we have plenty of oil, we have plenty of supply."

Gas prices are safe

While the long-term effect on oil prices will depend on how fast Saudi Arabia restores production, Thummel believes crude oil will be range-bound between $60 and $70 a barrel.

Thummel said that range means gas prices in the U.S. will stay below $3 a gallon nationally.

“That’s an important number to stay below that $3 threshold domestically, because that keeps driver demand pretty steady,” he said.

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $2.56, according to AAA.

“Both politically and economically for consumers gas at under $3 a gallon is an important benchmark,” said Peterson.

“This should be a pretty transitory impact for U.S. gasoline prices,” she said. “We’re mostly domestically supplied at this point. We’re making the shift to winter grade, which is a cheaper and easier to make version of gasoline, so I think the spike we’ve seen over the last 24 hours is more a reaction to the overall market move, not actually reflecting any shortage in the U.S. “

Alexis Christoforous is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.” Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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