Prices and other surprises

Surprise. The year just past was full of it. Here's hoping that 1999 is full of surprise, too. It was not a surprise that crude oil lost roughly 40% of its annual average value in 1998. The were reasons for that to happen, reasons clear to everyone. It was the principal reason for the price plunge that surprised nearly everyone: the end of Asia's economic boom. Asia was supposed to be the core growth area for petroleum demand into the next century. Surprise! Important Asian currencies collapsed in 1997. Despite a few hopeful economics signs in 1998, the Asian slump came to look like more than a cyclic adjustment. Malaysia now has a political crisis. Indonesia has a social ...

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