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Oil prices—is the worst over?

Supply-demand balances are tightening and sentiment is turning, but the next two quarters will be decisive

"Lower for longer" has been boilerplate podium-speak at industry conferences for the past two years—almost now an industry cliché. The consensus view is that whatever Opec does oil prices can't rise much beyond $55-60 a barrel, because tight oil producers will leap to the pump and smother any rally. But another rally is indeed underway and—say nervous whisperers—this one might have some staying power. On 25 September, Brent was trading in London above $57 a barrel, a 25% gain since threatening to push below $45/b on 21 June. WTI's performance has been less bullish, but the benchmark, above $50/b as Petroleum Economist went to press, has still posted a 16% rise in the same time. A pause is

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