Awash in an Ocean of Oil

Overproduction sends petroleum prices into a harrowing free fall

Once again, a stunning shift in the price of oil sent tremors around the globe. Yet unlike the jolts that staggered the world economy in the 1970s, last week's quake caused prices to crash rather than climb. On Tuesday oil dropped below $20 per bbl. for the first time in seven years. Said Charles Maxwell, an analyst with the Cyrus J. Lawrence brokerage house near Wall Street: "This is one of the most important days in the oil markets in a decade." Since November, the price of petroleum contracts has plunged about 40%, including an 18% drop last week. Said Peter...

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