Monday, August 29, 2005

Americans not alone feeling oil pinch

As Hurricane Katrina drives up the price of oil, Americans are not alone in feeling the economic impacts of high oil prices.

Skyrocketing oil prices are "a heavy tax on most Asian economies," said William Overholt, director of Rand Corp.'s Center for Asia Pacific Policy.

Oil has doubled in price since the start of the year, ending last week at $66.13 a barrel. That's worrisome news for Asia Pacific economies, which rely on imports for 67% of their oil needs. Not only do they face unexpectedly high oil bills, but they fear that high energy costs, coupled with rising interest rates, will spook consumers in one of their largest export markets, the U.S.

As U.S. companies trim their energy consumption and consumers pare their spending, the slowdown is already being felt across the Pacific.

"Some of these countries are facing some real issues," said Kenneth Courtis, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs Inc. "Their trade numbers are going bad, inflation rates are moving up and people are grumbling" because governments are being forced to let energy prices rise.

The World Bank predicts that the global economy will slow to about 3% this year from 4% in 2004, but the effect on individual countries will vary widely.