The euro zone's hardship might be the only thing keeping oil prices from soaring
By most assessments, the U.S. economy, after years of muddling through the aftermath of the Great Recession, is getting hotter. Not bonfire hot. Not Jeremy Lin hot. But warm, like an outdoor jacuzzi.
Just case you were starting to feel swept away with optimism, however, take a moment to look at the drama in the world oil market, where the cost of crude is being driven up by one potential global crisis, and being forced back down by another.
During the past several weeks, the price of Brent crude has marched above $120 a barrel, from an average of about $110 in January.* Analysts say we can largely thank the standoff between Iran and the west over Tehran's nuclear program.
The combination of American sanctions aimed at crippling Iran's ability to sell crude and a planned European embargo has oil traders worried about the stress on global supplies. Prices would be even higher, were it not for Europe's woes. As the Associated Press recently put it, the eurozone already has "one foot in recession," as its economy contracted during the last quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, the whole world is trying to figure out whether Greece and EU finance ministers will be able to agree on terms for a bailout.