NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -
Big numbers: $15.52 and $524.75!!!!! The first is an all time high for natural gas, the second a 24 year high for the price of gold! Is there a correlation?
Depends on what is your view of the economy and inflation. Common wisdom is that soaring natural gas prices are going to pinch consumers in cold, snow-covered climes in a big way. That in turn could hurt spending, and slow the economy.
But some see an economy dominated with workers who are making enough money and investors who are earning enough income that they will keep on spending on everything else. They think those folks will buy nice presents for friends this month, no matter how much it costs to heat their McMansions.
And so this group thinks high energy prices will prove inflationary because they will soften people up for higher prices of all kinds, giving companies a chance to raise prices at will and kick off an upward inflationary spiral.
Now we know that rising physical demand for gold – think jewelry, especially in Asia -- is a big force driving prices higher. But if gold speculators are counting on rising inflation to keep prices rising at a time when fuel prices could really heat up, they should take another look at $15 natural gas and ask again just how long consumers can boost prices when they face fuel bills that high.
Kathleen Hays is economics correspondent for CNN. Read more of her columns here.