OIL: The Great Speculation

Among U.S. oil companies, Amerada Petroleum Corp. is relatively small (28th in income), and virtually unknown to the public. But when little Amerada brought in a new oil well in North Dakota's rich Williston Basin last week, its stock jumped 10 points in a few hours. Such jumps, however, are routine for Amerada. It is that rarity of Wall Street poker: a true-blue chip backed by a handful of wild cards.

Amerada always looks high-priced; last week it was selling at $225—43 times earnings. Ordinarily, conservative investors would shun such a seemingly...

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