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Four things are now affecting the picture-

  • Demand is low because of weak economic activity, increased efficiency, and a growing switch away from oil to other fuels.
  • Second, turmoil in Iraq and Libya—two big oil producers with nearly 4m barrels a day combined—has not affected their output. The market is more sanguine about geopolitical risk.
  • Thirdly, America has become the world’s largest oil producer. Though it does not export crude oil,it now imports much less, creating a lot of spare supply.
  • Finally, the Saudis and their Gulf allies have decided not to sacrifice their own market share to restore the price. They could curb production sharply, but the main benefits would go to countries they detest such as Iran and Russia. Saudi Arabia can tolerate lower oil prices quite easily. It has $900 billion in reserves. Its own oil costs very little (around $5-6 per barrel) to get out of the ground.
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