Today, Standard & Poor's weekly economic webcast hit the press, reporting on the latest macroeconomic news and providing its opinion on today's volatile markets.

Not-so-good news. While S&P chief economist, David Wyss, says that retail sales were much stronger than expected, due to spending by households in anticipation of their rebate checks, they still suggest that a mild recession is underway.

“We still expect a drop in the second quarter, returning to positive in the second half as rebate checks get spent and the investment incentives kick in. The fear is that gross domestic product will dip again in early 2009 if oil prices continue to climb and financial markets remain illiquid,” he said.

In this editor’s opinion, oil prices will indeed continue to escalate, at least in the short term. Also, as we head into the summer driving season. gasoline prices will almost certainly continue to be above most consumers’ comfort level.

On the upside, for investors, upstream oil companies stocks should continue to be a safe bet in volatile stock markets.