With all the talk that the U.S. economy is slowing down, and that it might go into a recession, you would never know it by looking at the price of a barrel of oil.
As of the time of this article, the front month contract of West Texas Intermediate crude oil has crossed $90 per barrel, and it looks like $100 may be inevitable, provided the U.S. economy does not fall of a cliff in the third or fourth quarter of 2011.
China seems to be doing the impossible, engineering a soft landing in its economy. China was experiencing torrid growth, and that torrid growth finally took a tole on its burgeoning lower and middle class, with inflation soaring. The People's Bank of China took action, raising reserve requirements, the percentage of cash for second and third homes, and even raising its main interest rates.
Despite the headwinds in Europe, the U.S. and around the world, the benchmark crude contract has been steadily climbing, since bottoming out at around $78 per barrel. Crude reached almost $120 per barrel in April, before the wheels fell off in Europe, and everything came down crashing and burning. It bottomed out at in early August and has been steadily climbing ever since then.
$100 per barrel oil starts to begin the discussion of potentially slowing an economy, as oil is a major input cost for a variety of industries. Automobiles, plastics, fertilizers, and many more. All of these industries either use oil, or some kind of derivative of black gold for their products.
This is why the Federal Reserve doing a third round of quantitative easing is so tricky. If it does, it will weaken the U.S. dollar even further, leading to commodity prices rising. If it does not, the U.S. economy is likely to fall back into a recession, or perhaps even worse.
With the potential for more cheap money, oil looks to go higher. Names like Exxon Mobil (NYS: XOM) , Chevron (NYS: CVX) , and Conoco Phillips (NYS: COP) will benefit, but the more unconventional names will benefit as well.
Companies that operate in oil sands, like Suncor (NYS: SU) , Canadian Oil Sands, and Canadian Natural Resource (NYS: CNQ) may seen increased attention, as companies seek to expand their unconventional drilling activities.
There are certain ETFs that will benefit from higher oil prices, like United States 12 Month Oil Fund NYSE: USL), Oil Service HOLDRs ETF (NYS: OIH) should also do well.
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