Tuesday, August 17, 2004

NYMEX oil prices were trending gradually lower today until, around noon EDT today, they began skyrocketing up to $46.95/barrel, a new record, before closing at $46.75 today. Why the sudden spike?
Russian oil company Yukos has lost an appeal for more time to pay a $3.4bn (�1.85bn) tax bill.

The company asked the Moscow Arbitration Court to suspend an order forcing it to pay the back taxes for 2000 by the end of August.

Bailiffs are already taking money from Yukos accounts, raising fears that the company may have to stop pumping oil.

The bailiffs' action makes it unclear how the company can continue to pay its operating costs.
CNN Money helps put prices in a larger context.
In real terms, adjusted for inflation, oil prices are still well below 1980's peak of $80 a barrel, following the Iranian revolution. But average U.S. prices this year so far of $38 are approaching those of 1974, the first oil shock, when crude averaged an inflation-adjusted $43 during the Arab oil embargo.
In June 1974 imported oil into the US averaged $11.45/barrel. In July 2004 dollars that's $44.26. August 2004 should easily crush that marker. The next landmark is October 1990 when prices averaged around $57/barrel. Thankfully we're a long way from $80/barrel, 1980's inflation-adjusted peak. Nevertheless, on the family's summer vacation to Oil Price Spiral National Park, we've passed the largest ball of twine and the jackalope museum long, long ago.

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