The sharp drop in energy prices since the beginning of the month is turning into a rare bright spot in a bleak economic landscape.
For the moment, at least, fears of a prolonged energy shock seem to have subsided a bit.
Oil has fallen more than $23 a barrel, or 16 percent, since peaking on July 3. Gasoline has slipped below $4 a gallon and is dropping fast as Americans drive less. Natural gas prices, which had risen the fastest this year as traders anticipated a hot summer, have fallen 33 percent since the beginning of the month.