Lew: 'Great success story' that U.S. is producing so much oil

Lower oil prices are an unquestioned positive for the U.S. economy, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Thursday.

Speaking at the DealBook "Opportunities for Tomorrow" conference in New York, Lew said the plunge in energy and accompanying prices at the pump that have dropped well below $3 a gallon in most places have helped boost a U.S. economy that is doing well otherwise.

"Short-term we're seeing a U.S. economy that's growing with increasing strength, and lower energy prices are going to be a boost to consumer demand and confidence," he said.

He said the decline is "like a tax cut to the economy" and praised U.S. oil production as a "great success story."

Lew would not predict the future path of oil prices. He did say that forward cpntracts indicate that market conditions indicated the price would "trend back towards normal."

In other issues, Lew expressed some willingness to compromise on the latest spending battle raging in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew speaks onstage during The New York Times DealBook Conference at One World Trade Center on December 11, 2014 in New York City.
Thos Robinson | Getty Images for The New York Times.
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew speaks onstage during The New York Times DealBook Conference at One World Trade Center on December 11, 2014 in New York City.

Congressional Republicans are trying to use a continuing resolution that allows the government to stay open and keep spending money as an opportunity to repeal part of the Dodd-Frank banking reforms.

Lew said he's hopeful some common ground can be reached by the two sides.

"What Congress and the president are going to have to work through in the next day or two is that trade-off," he said.

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He spoke on a range of other issues as well.

On tax reform: "There's no question that fixing our broken tax code is in the public interest."

On the controversy over Antonio Weiss, who has been nominated as Treasury undersecretary but has faced withering criticisms from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others: "I think Antonio is extraordinarily well-qualified."

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And despite his enthusiasm over the economy, he said there remains much work to be done, particularly in the area of employment and wages.

"It's a lot to expect for the American people who are struggling with wages that aren't rising as fast as they should to say everything is fine," Lew said.