Crude oil becomes economy's friend

Whether it was the speculators or the specter of demand that pushed oil well over $70 last month, the rise in crude prices began to cause concern that the recovery could be knocked off course by higher energy costs. Gas rising above $3, spiking jet fuel prices, and expensive petrochemicals could all have damaged consumer spending and a recovery in business earnings.

Now, oil is dropping fast just as concern over a prolonged recession is emerging again. The two are linked, of course. A shrinking economy needs less fuel. Nonetheless, if crude keeps falling, it is a boon for the recovery.