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"We’re getting close to a point where we should start worrying," says Thomas Simons, a market economist at Jefferies & Co. "People hate paying for gas. You get no pleasure out of it, unlike food or clothes."
If gas goes to $4.50 a gallon and stays there, it would cost each household about $1,000 more this year than last to buy the same amount of gas. That would eat half of the $2,000 savings a typical household will get from this year’s cut in Social Security taxes.
Prices on the rise
Utah average Wednesday » $3.28
Yesterday » $3.25
Week ago » 3.12
Month ago » $3.06
Year ago » $3.26
Record high » $4.22 on July 18, 2008
U.S. average Wednesday » $3.73
Yesterday: » $3.72
Week ago » $3.58
Month ago » $3.43
Year ago » $3.38
Record high: » $4.11 on July 17, 2008
It would also land a hard psychological blow, Kelly says. Jumps in oil and gas prices triggered recessions in 1973 and 1990, and gas prices last peaked months before the financial crisis shook markets in 2008.
Kelly says another spike could lead many Americans to worry that history will repeat itself.
"Americans have a fuzzy grasp on most economic matters," he says, "but one thing they’re clear on is that high gas prices are a danger sign."
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