Oil prices surge triggers new worries over US inflation
Published: Sep 16, 2023 06:46 PM


As global oil prices increased for a third straight week on the back of production cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia, concerns over the inflationary pressure in the US are on the rise, with analysts saying this may lead to new resistance for the Fed when it comes to adjusting the pace of monetary policy tightening.

Both West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil futures are extending multi-month highs on concerns over tight supply. WTI settled near $90.4 a barrel on Friday, the highest since November 2022, while Brent hit $94.31 per barrel, also the highest in 10 months.

The past two months saw global oil prices rise by about 20 percent. The International Energy Agency and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries both warned this week that the market would be in deficit through year-end due to the production cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia.

As a result, gasoline prices in the US have surged to a seasonal record, with average regular gasoline now costing $3.866 a gallon, up 7.8 percent in just eight weeks, according to data from the American Automobile Association.

"Continuous increase in US gasoline prices may jeopardize the Fed's fight against inflation. At a time when the Fed has sent signals toward adjusting its tightening monetary policy, the renewed inflationary pressure is not a good omen," Chen Chao, a commodity analyst, told the Global Times on Saturday.

The worries over new inflation pressure have come at a time when the US consumer price index in August increased by 3.7 percent from a year ago, accelerating from 3.2 percent in July and higher than market expectation, according to the US Department of Labor.

Inflation continues to be a major problem for the US economy and society. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is on strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the first time in its history that it has struck all three of America's unionized automakers at the same time. UAW says auto workers have only seen 6 percent annual wage gains since 2019, and inflation offset much of those gains.

If the Fed does not keep its monetary policy tight, inflationary pressures are likely to intensify, but a continuously tight monetary policy increases the likelihood that the US economy will fall into recession, Chen explained. "So the question is whether the US can release additional barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but the release of strategic reserve is not that easy."