Savage, Shirley S., Global Finance
Crude oil prices have come roaring back. The price of low-sulfur crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange approached $21 a barrel in late July. That's a dramatic 71% change from the $11 a barrel level in January. Production cutbacks by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other world producers have caused output to drop below demand for the first time in several months. OPEC and nonOPEC producers reduced crude production by 8% in March, which is about 1.72 million barrels a day. To the amazement of observers, compliance rate among OPEC members has been 90%.With demand expected to continue to increase, some oil analysts are forecasting even stronger crude oil prices. Predictions range from $27 a barrel to $40 a barrel during the next several months.
Meanwhile, the US dollar has been forced lower by a correction in the US stock market, the possibility that inflation may return, and the widening trade deficit. The trade-weighted dollar has fallen 2% this year, according to HSBC Securities. From 1996 through 1998, the trade-- weighted dollar rose 8% a year.The dollar's weakness has meant that the euro and the yen have gained ground.The euro has fallen sharply, almost reaching parity with the dollar in July. Should the dollar continue to slide, US consumer spending may need to be reduced or the Federal Reserve may have to hike interest rates in order to bolster the dollar. …