THIS has been a nerve-racking summer for oil companies. Since June the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil—the global benchmark—has slumped from $115 to $92, a decline of 20% and the lowest for more than two years. That drop is partly thanks to economic weakness. Growth is slowing, particularly in China and the euro zone, reducing oil consumption with it. The International Energy Agency IEA, US Energy Information Administration and OPEC have all recently lowered their forecasts for global oil demand.But there is also a growing glut of supply. America’s output of shale oil has risen by around 4m barrels a day since 2008, cutting American imports from OPEC almost by half. The club of oil exporters itself is in disarray. On October 1st Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s dominant producer, unilaterally and unexpectedly cut its official prices to shore up its global market share. The kingdom had already trimmed them earlier in the northern summer, as had Kuwait and Iraq. Most Middle Eastern OPEC members are now engaged in a price war in Asia.
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