High Oil Prices: Big Headwind for Stocks

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Could it be that the U.S. economy is actually accelerating? Is it possible that the drama in Greece is nearing a resolution?

Well, stock investors seem to think so. The S&P 500 is inching closer to a 52-week high reached last April, while the Dow is approaching a price that we haven't seen in four years.

On the flip side, crude oil prices have rocketed more than 12% over the prior six weeks. It's certainly within the realm of imagination that with the rising prices of petroleum-based products (e.g., diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, etc.), transporters may transport less. Equally disconcerting, consumers may travel less. And the fragile U.S. economy might find itself in dire straits yet again.

Let's examine United States Gasoline ( UGA) for clues. The last time that UGA was firing on all cylinders was at the end of April, 2011. Ironically , gasoline prices began to tank at the same time that the S&P 500 came off its loftiest perch.

Some might suggest that higher oil prices merely indicate robust demand from a rapidly growing world. Unfortunately, oil at $100 or more per barrel tends to cause shifts in the driving habits and air travel plans of Americans. At $150 per barrel, many begin looking at gasoline at the $5 per gallon range in some parts of the United States.

The last time that oil pushed $150 per barrel? The 2007-2008 housing collapse and subsequent Great Recession began to take shape, while high gasoline prices added undesireable fuel to the funeral pyre.

If tighter-than-desired physical oil markets couple with European economic contraction, don't expect the Fed to be able to bail you out. Keep an eye on United States Gasoline. A pullback to the trendline could be a healthy sign for the economy longer term, whereas a runaway gasoline binge could send shock waves through stock assets.

Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert is a website that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial and/or its clients may hold positions in ETFs, mutual funds and investment assets mentioned. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert website. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships. You may review additional ETF Expert at the site.

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