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Bear Traps Report's Larry McDonald on soaring energy prices

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Larry McDonald, editor of the Bear Traps Report, joins CNBC's 'Squawk Box' to discuss the emerging energy crisis and the future of global demand. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

Energy prices are surging, and the economy is already feeling the pinch of higher fuel costs though it is far from stalling out.

There is an unusual coincidence of much higher oil, natural gas and coal prices, combined with other rising commodities and supply chain disruptions. That perfect storm of shortages and higher prices begs the question of whether the economy could go into a serious tailspin or even a recession.

Economists say, for now, the jump in prices is not the type of oil shock that will turn U.S. growth negative, but there will be economic consequences of higher energy costs, particularly in places like Europe where natural gas prices have skyrocketed.

“Periods of trending oil prices tend not to be a problem,” JPMorgan chief economist Bruce Kasman said. “The periods of spiking oil prices tend to be what gets you into trouble. They tend to be largely supply driven, and they tend to have disruptive elements that are more broad in terms of their potential drags on growth.”

“We do have a rise in energy that will be a drag on fourth quarter growth,” he added. “It’s not at a point where we’re warning about recession, but it’s at the point where you have to worry about it hurting growth in a material way.”

American consumers have already been paying up for gasoline, and heating and electricity costs could rise more this winter. Oil prices are up more than 65% this year so far, while natural gas prices have jumped more than 112% since January.

“We’re looking at GDP growth in the 4% to 6% range ... We would have to see massive doubling and tripling of oil prices for it to have such a bad effect that we go ... to negative growth,” said Anwiti Bahuguna, head of multi-asset strategy at Columbia Threadneedle.

Since last October, gasoline prices have risen about $1.10 per gallon, and are now at $3.27 per gallon of unleaded, according to AAA. Oil prices were depressed and even turned negative when the pandemic shut down the economy in 2020. Now, forecasts for $100 oil are getting more common, as West Texas Intermediate oil futures trade above $80 per barrel for the first time since 2014.

“What’s different about this is normally it’s oil that leads an energy crisis, but in this case it’s the tail that’s being wagged by natural gas, coal and renewables,” said Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit. “Oil is filling in to make up for the fact that [liquified natural gas] is maxed out and wind in Europe has been a lot lower than normal.”

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