NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Fears that the Suez Canal will be closed as a result of the political unrest in Egypt are the latest sign that the price of oil remains as much a psychological measure of market confidence as an actual read of economic strength.

No market indicator moved as quickly or as strongly as the price of crude oil on Friday, when the political events in Egypt reached a crescendo-- a crescendo from which they haven't come back down yet. Crude oil rallied by 4% on Friday as the equities markets tanked.

The Suez Canal remains open on Monday, and crude oil price's big rally has moderated, but it was still moving up as the week began, above $90. Brent crude hit $100 for the first time since October 2008 on Monday.

The Suez Canal is a broader story than just an energy sector one, with global shipping rocked by the thought that all tankers would have to be diverted around the southern tip of Africa, and shipping stocks rallying on Friday to levels that they had not recently seen given a glut in the sector.

Exxon Mobil ( XOM) reported strong earnings on Monday morning and said that global economic stabilization was in place.

Nevertheless, the Egyptian political crisis is just the kind of exogenous event that sets off all the alarm bells about how quickly global reliance on Middle East oil can send investors into a panic.

All the usual interest groups were out on Monday pitching their version of the events in Egypt. Only a week after President Obama set a goal of 80% clean energy for the U.S. by 2035 in his State of the Union address, clean energy advocates were positioning the political crisis in Egypt as one more reason why a U.S. economy dependent on Middle East oil is a losing proposition and reason to invest more in alternative sources of energy.

The political events in Egypt and the Suez Canal's key role in global shipping are far from the only psychological trigger for the price of oil, though. Coming into 2011, as crude rallied to end the year, the never-ending debate about just how high the crude oil price can go before investors begin to worry.

Indeed, the political events in Egypt raise the most fundamental, and psychological question, about the price of oil once again: is it set to upset the global economic recovery in 2011?

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