First Quarter 2015
United States’ GDP expanded 2.4% in 2014, consistent with the 2.3% and 2.2% growth rates seen in 2012 and 2013, respectively. However, two trends that began in the second half of last year, lower oil prices and a rapidly strengthening dollar, likely contributed to comparatively weaker economic growth through the first quarter. According to figures from the Energy Information Administration, benchmark WTI crude oil prices averaged $48.49 per barrel from the beginning of the year through March, notably less than the $93.17 average for 2014. These lower prices have curtailed capital expenditure and hiring plans not just for major exploration and production companies, but also for ancillary service and industrial firms that rely on the energy industry for sales. Despite this decline, domestic production has continued at record high levels, and expectations for a quick price rebound remain subdued.