Soaring energy prices – driven most recently by spikes in crude – helped drive the U.S. inflation rate to a 40-year high in January, creating both opportunity and risk for oil and natural gas companies.

inflation graph

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Thursday the consumer price index (CPI) jumped 7.5% in January from the same month a year earlier. The print marked the fastest rate of increase since February 1982 and the eighth consecutive month of inflation above 5%. The CPI had surged 7% year/year in December, setting the previous four-decade peak.

January energy prices spiked 27% from a year earlier — more than any other category tracked by the BLS, save for used cars (41%). Energy prices also were up 1% from December’s already lofty level.

Energy commodities, a...