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Fifteen years ago, in January 1994, I began writing my first annual World Oil outlook article about crude oil markets. Its title was It is not 1986! Oil prices had collapsed from a high of over $20 a barrel to $14 as 1993 came to an end. This price was lower, on an inflated-adjusted basis, than the price of crude in 1986. I pointed out how strong the underlying oil fundamentals were as 1994 began, despite the price drop. Ironically, I mused at the end of this article that paper barrels being aggressively bought or sold can temporarily create an illusion of a market too tight or with too much of a glut. Months later, the world learned that the entire collapse was due to Metallgesellhaft AG (MG), a German trading firm whose long positions in paper barrels had to be liquidated. Once this exercise ended, crude prices quickly rebounded to their old highs.
I was tempted to use the same headline 15 years later as the price of oil in 2008 went on its wildest ride ever. The year began around $100 a barrel-far beyond what most price forecasting groups thought possible.
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