Are We Headed for Recession?

That never happened this year and in the last few weeks, gasoline prices have started to tick up rising 14 cents in the last week alone. The average cost of gas across the country now stands at $3.01 a gallon with motorists in California paying $3.23 a gallon, on average.

The rising prices will also hurt Americans who have to heat their homes this winter.

The Energy Information Administration this week predicted that the average household would see their heating bill rise $97 or 11 percent over last year. Only a month ago, the government agency had only predicted an $88 or 10 percent climb.

Those hit hardest this winter will be residents of the Northeast, who primarily use heating oil. People who use propane will be hit hard too, followed by those who use natural gas and then electricity, primarily those in the South.

The airlines, which have only recently returned to profitability, could be dramatically hit by spiking oil prices.

United Airlines on Thursday become the second airline in a week to announce that they will raise ticket prices to help offset the rising cost of jet fuel. American Airlines announced a similar hike last week.

United also yesterday said it could ground up to 100 or more of its airplanes if soaring fuel prices ultimately cause consumers to buy fewer tickets.

The increase in oil prices will also affect the cost of transporting the millions of everyday products from their factories to our local stores, as well as the cost to move the raw materials to make those products.

The Good News

Bernanke said that while there are weaknesses in parts of the economy, the overall labor market is strong, as is the country's export level..

Last week, the government released the latest data on the overall economy, as measured by the Gross Domestic Product. The report showed that things were doing a bit better than expected during the July to September time period, with the GDP increasing at a pace of 3.9 percent -- the highest quarterly growth rate in a year and a half.

Two main factors drove up the GDP. First Americans continued to shop. Second, exports grew at the fastest pace since the last part of 1996. American exports are flourishing because the dollar is so weak -- everything we make is effectively on sale to the rest of the world.

Schumer questioned Bernanke if declining house prices would affect this growth in spending.

Bernanke said, yes but with a big caveat.

"Certainly as consumers see their home values decline, it will affect their long-term thinking toward spending," he said, noting that decline would probably be offset by a generally strong labor market.

And what about reports yesterday that China might start shifting its investments away from the U.S. dollar?

"I don't see any significant change in broad holdings of dollars around the world," Bernanke told the committee. He said the dollar will be strong "in the medium term" and that he expects it to continue as a standard around the world because of the overall strength and security of the U.S. financial markets.

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