Volatility and instability

Oil industry managers once gave much thought to an ideal called stability. Now they spend less time trying to achieve stability and more time trying to survive an instability that seems destined to last. But is it? By "stability," most people refer to price and mean the opposite of "volatility." With crude oil and key products now traded as commodities, prices are indeed volatile. By itself, this is not a bad thing. In an active market, trade-by-trade lurches in price should balance one another into fairly smooth trends that reflect shifting relationships between supply and demand. The smoothing happens because supply, demand, and price gravitate toward a balance that econom...

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