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Prices remain strong but oil markets face testing times

Brent has averaged $110.59 a barrel in the past three years. This is high by any historical measure. Even including the price run-up earlier this century, for example, the mean price in the 25 years till 2011 was just over $33/b

The consensus is that strong oil prices are here to stay. A Bloomberg survey of forecasters at the end of December, for example, found $105/b to be the average prediction for Brent in 2014. The US' Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, came up with the same number, while seeing a marginal fall in 2015, to $102/b. This is happy news for crude producers and especially for suppliers of costlier new supplies, whether they come from the Gulf of Mexico, the Bakken or the oil sands. It's not such good news for net-oil-importing economies, which continue to pay through the nose for their most vital commodity. During periods of weakness in the euro against the dollar i

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