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Thursday, July 7, 2011

U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Changing Oil Prices

James K. Jackson
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Petroleum prices have risen sharply since September 2010, at times reaching more than $112 per barrel of crude oil. Although this is still below the $140 per barrel price reached in 2008, the rising cost of energy is beginning to affect the rate of growth in the economy. While the price of oil has increased sharply, the volume of oil imports, or the amount of oil imported, has actually increased slightly. This resistance by market demand to changes in prices reflect the unique nature of the demand for oil and an increase in economic activity that has occurred since the worst part of the economic recession in 2009. Turmoil in the Middle East has been an important factor causing petroleum prices to rise sharply in the first four months of 2011, which could add as much as $100 billion to the U.S. trade deficit in 2011. The increase in energy import prices is pushing up the price of energy to consumers and could spur some elements of the public to pressure the 112th Congress to provide relief to households that are struggling to meet their current expenses. With oil prices rising to over $100 per barrel in early 2011, the International Energy Agency cautioned that the rising price of oil was becoming a threat to the global economic recovery. This report provides an estimate of the initial impact of the changing oil prices on the nation’s merchandise trade deficit.

Date of Report: June 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS22204
Price: $29.95

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