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Oil and the U.S. Macroeconomy: An Update and a Simple Forecasting Exercise

Some analysts and economists recently warned that the U.S. economy faces a much higher risk of recession should the price of oil rise to one hundred dollars per barrel or more. In February 2008, spot crude oil prices closed above one hundred dollars per barrel for the first time ever, and since then they have climbed even higher. Meanwhile, according to some surveys of economists, it is highly probable that a recession began in the United States in late 2007 or early 2008. Although the findings in this paper are consistent with the view that the U.S. economy has become much less sensitive to large changes in oil prices, a simple forecasting exercise using Hamilton’s model augmented with the first principal component of 85 macroeconomic variables reveals that a permanent increase in the price of crude oil to one hundred and fifty dollars per barrel by the end of 2008 could have a significant negative effect on the growth rate of real gross domestic product in the short run. Moreover, the model also predicts that such an increase in oil prices would produce much higher overall and core inflation rates in 2009 than most policymakers expect.

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