A:

The price of oil and inflation are often seen as being connected in a cause and effect relationship. As oil prices move up or down, inflation follows in the same direction. The reason why this happens is that oil is a major input in the economy - it is used in critical activities such as fueling transportation and heating homes - and if input costs rise, so should the cost of end products. For example, if the price of oil rises, then it will cost more to make plastic, and a plastics company will then pass on some or all of this cost to the consumer, which raises prices and thus inflation.

The direct relationship between oil and inflation was evident in the 1970s, when the cost of oil rose from a nominal price of $3 before the 1973 oil crisis to around $40 during the 1979 oil crisis. This helped cause the consumer price index (CPI), a key measure of inflation, to more than double from 41.20 in early 1972 to 86.30 by the end of 1980. Let's put this into perspective: while it had previously taken 24 years (1947-1971) for the CPI to double, during the 1970s it took about eight years.

However, this relationship between oil and inflation started to deteriorate after the 1980s. During the 1990's Gulf War oil crisis, crude prices doubled in six months from around $20 to around $40, but CPI remained relatively stable, growing from 134.6 in January 1991 to 137.9 in December 1991. This detachment in the relationship was even more apparent during the oil price run-up from 1999 to 2005, in which the annual average nominal price of oil rose from $16.56 to $50.04. During this same period, the CPI rose from 164.30 in January 1999 to 196.80 in December 2005. Judging by this data, it appears that the strong correlation between oil prices and inflation that was seen in the 1970s has weakened significantly.

For more information, see our Inflation tutorial and The Consumer Price Index: A Friend To Investors.

RELATED FAQS
  1. How does the price of oil affect the stock market?

    Read about how the price of oil might impact the stock market and why economists have not been able to find a strong correlation ... Read Answer >>
  2. What causes oil prices to fluctuate?

    Discover how OPEC, demand and supply, natural disasters, production costs and political instability are some of the major ... Read Answer >>
  3. Why are stocks and oil so correlated right now?

    Learn whether the stock market and oil prices will continue their highly correlated price relationship or decouple again ... Read Answer >>
  4. If oil producers run out of room to store oil, will the price of gasoline plummet?

    Learn about what happens to gasoline price when room to store oil runs out and whether this creates a good situation for ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Oil Boom 2.0: Be Sure You Are Ready to Invest

    Learn about the potential for oil boom 2.0, and discover why some experts say this is a good time to invest in oil companies and ETFs.
  2. Financial Advisor

    Is Now the Right Time to Buy Oil Stocks?

    Learn about the oil industry and how crude oil effects the prices of oil stock. Understand if now is a good time to purchase oil stock.
  3. Investing

    Peak Oil: What To Do When The Wells Run Dry

    Find out how to invest and protect your investments in this slippery sector.
  4. Investing

    Investing in Oil Stocks vs. Oil Companies: What's the Difference? (USO)

    Learn about the major advantages, disadvantages and risks of investing in oil companies and investing in oil and gas exploration companies.
  5. Investing

    OPEC vs the U.S.: Who Controls Oil Prices?

    In the last 100 years, pricing power for oil has swung between the United States and OPEC. What does the future hold?
  6. Investing

    6 Industries Hoping That Oil Prices Go Higher

    Given that the price of oil has been increasing significantly since 2003, it has come to the forefront of our economic concerns.
  7. Investing

    What Affects Oil Prices?

    Oil prices have an enormous impact on the global economy. Learn how market forces, the futures market, and market sentiment all influence the price of oil.
  8. Investing

    Impact of Low Oil Prices on Oil Sellers and Buyers

    The impact of the fall in oil prices globally is nuanced due to the complex economies of some countries --some of which are both oil producers and buyers.
  9. Investing

    What a $20 USD Barrel Means For the US Oil Industry

    Read about Goldman Sachs' prediction that oil prices could go as low as $20 a barrel. Understand how low prices impact companies in the U.S. oil sector.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Crude Oil

    Crude oil is a naturally occurring, unrefined petroleum product ...
  2. Inflation Trade

    A method of investing that seeks to profit from an overall increase ...
  3. Headline Inflation

    The raw inflation figure as reported through the Consumer Price ...
  4. Oil ETF

    A category of exchange-traded funds that invest in companies ...
  5. Peak Oil

    A hypothetical date referring to the world's peak crude oil production, ...
  6. Inflation Protected

    The types of investments that provide protection against inflation ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Collateral Value

    The estimated fair market value of an asset that is being used as loan collateral. Collateral value is determined by appraisal ...
  2. Fiduciary

    A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another person, or persons to manage assets.
  3. Current Account

    The difference between a nation’s savings and its investment. The current account is defined as the sum of goods and services ...
  4. Liability

    Liabilities are defined as a company's legal debts or obligations that arise during the course of business operations.
  5. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  6. Covered Call

    An options strategy whereby an investor holds a long position in an asset and writes (sells) call options on that same asset ...
Trading Center