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Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus
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Will Higher Gas Prices Stall the Recovery?

The numbers have been promising and long overdue. First, America added jobs and reduced the number of new job claims for two months in a row. Even the surge of seasonal jobs didn’t cause an exodus to the unemployment lines once the Christmas decorations were taken down. Second, yesterday the DOW dipped a toe in the 13,000 waters before running back to the (very) high 12's.

This is the first time the DOW has been over 13,000 since 2008, or the Year That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

Although this is good news for President Obama and inconvenient news for GOP contenders like Mitt Romney, who argues that despite signs of a recovery, the president actually prolonged it, dangers loom. If any Democrats think that the economic recovery is smooth sailing, there are to dark clouds on the horizon. Namely, Iran and Greece and the price of a tank of gas.

The slow-motion burning of the Greek economy has been long in coming and any self-respecting hedge fund that has not hedged against the Euro and Greece would be clinically insane these days. That said, if Greece leaves the Euro that currency and almost all others will certainly swoon for days if not weeks. This could bring back the dark clouds of last year.

As for Iran, the Middle Eastern republic is making noises that not only will it raise prices on crude if Europe and the US goes through with a proposed wave of new sanctions, it has started to flex its military muscles. The US Navy may have a busy strong as the Iranian Navy plays cat and mouse with US aircraft carriers and guided missile cruisers. To add even more tsuris, Iran and Israel appear to be in a race to kill each other's nuclear scientists and minor officials. We're now in Jason Bourne/James Bond territory.

Both of these situations directly lead to the price of gas this summer. The price of oil is now at a one-year high of $105 a barrel and at the local gas stations in Westchester I've paid $4.04 per gallon for 87 octane. Not the highest I've ever paid but the cost is trending upwards. The specter of $5 a gallon is no longer outrageous for American drivers.

The recovery is just around the corner and there are signs almost everywhere. GOP candidates like Rick Santorum have shifted to the social conservative talking points of the late 1990s and Franklin Graham, son of evangelist icon Billy Graham, expressed doubts of President Obama's religion and accused him of favoring Muslims in the Middle East over Christians in this region. We're also seeing more debate about the role of birth control in Obama's health plan and whether Virginia can impel rape victims to have an ultrasound before they opt to terminate their pregnancy.

No candidate beats the drum of the culture war in an upbeat economy. When the candidates return to the US economy and what needs to be done, we can then be certain that that recovery has stalled and the recession has returned.

Stay tuned.

Phil Albinus is the former editor-in-chief of Advanced Trading. He has nearly two decades of journalism experience and has been covering financial technology and regulation for nine years. Before joining Advanced Trading, he served as editor of Waters, a monthly trade journal ... View Full Bio
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