Apologies to North Dakota, but the slide in oil prices is good for the US economy overall. At least that's the conclusion Barclays draws in a note to clients Thursday (the North Dakota apology is ours).
More than five years ago, such a statement wouldnt have been necessary. Oil below $80 a barrel would be an unqualified positive for the US economy.
But that was before the shale-oil boom, and that has complicated the equation a bit.
Lower prices mean US consumers and businesses will spend less on oil. While the US imports less oil than it did, it is still a net importer oil. That means a lot of the money that would have otherwise gone overseas will be spent instead on US-produced goods and services.
Barclays chief US equity strategist Jonathan Glionna estimates that a 20% decline in gas prices results in approximately $70 billion of consumer savings.
But the shale boom means that the US imports a lot less oil. In the eight months of this year net imports averaged 5.2 million barrels a day, according to the Energy Department, down from 12.6 million barrels a day over the same period in 2006.
The energy sector has been one of few bright spots in a US economy defined by slow growth since the financial crisis. The drop in oil prices is not good for the US energy sector or the 213,500 jobs on oil-and-gas extraction industry payrolls. Citi projected that capital expenditures would flatten for exploration and production companies at $85. At $80, it forecast a 5% drop. At $75, a 10% drop.
In all, Mr. Glionna estimates that the fall in oil prices could lead to a $40 billion cut to capital expenditure in the oil patch.
"The slow recovery in consumer spending that has resulted from stagnant wages could finally get a boost," Mr. Glionna says. "When we weigh the pros and cons of lower oil prices, we conclude that the benefit to the consumer outweighs the negative implications for the energy sector."
Update: Net imports averaged 5.2 million barrels a day, according to the Energy Department, down from 12.6 million barrels a day over the same period in 2006.