Business: Oil: The Blackmail Market

OPEC's customers get an on-the-spot petro-mugging

In response to the hostage trauma in Iran, the price of oil is poised for yet more damaging leaps upward.

The focus of the trouble is the jumpy and uncontrolled spot market, that loose network of brokers and hustlers who buy and sell available crude wherever they can for whatever the market will bear. OPEC sells most of its oil under contracts that can run from a month to a year or more, but cartel leaders watch the day-to-day spot market closely; when spot quotes climb, insatiable oil producers begin demanding more for their shipments.

Early last week...

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