By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will hold a news conference on Friday at 11:15 a.m. EST (1615) on issues including rising energy prices, a White House spokesman said, as Americans fret over higher costs tied to unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.
U.S. retail gasoline prices have been on the rise amid the tumult in the Arab world, which one pollster said helped send Americans' confidence in the way the country is headed to its lowest point since Obama became president two years ago.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday the proportion of people who believed the country is on the wrong track rose seven percentage points to 64 percent from February, in a fresh challenge to Obama, who will be up for re-election next year.
Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said the rating was a result of the higher fuel prices. "Gas prices specifically are things that affect people's pocketbooks and have an immediate impact," he said.
Voter discontent could put pressure on Obama to consider tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an emergency stockpile of oil, to boost supplies and thus lower prices, but the White House has shown little inclination to do so.
Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a briefing on Tuesday that the White House is monitoring the situation with oil prices and understands the impact that fuel costs have on family budgets, but is confident that the global system has the capacity to deal with a major disruption.
"That option is one we're considering, which we said before," he said.
Some critics have blasted Obama for being too cautious as he seeks to build an international consensus for a U.S. response to the turmoil in Libya as the North African state falls into civil war.
But analysts say there are deep drawbacks to many of the possible U.S. responses to the crisis.
And, while some members of Congress have suggested that Washington should consider solutions like arming the Libyan rebels, there is no consensus on Capitol Hill on military action.
(Editing by Philip Barbara)