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Outlook: Opec's gain is our loss

SO you thought OPEC was dead. Judging by last weekend's agreement to reduce oil output, there's life in the old cartel yet; OPEC's ability to manipulate the market to the advantage of producers seems as potent as ever. Indeed, this time round, the world's major oil exporters have surpassed themselves by roping in non OPEC countries too in their bid to remove the oversupply of oil. As a result, this latest initiative seems to stand a better chance of doing the trick than anything else tried in recent times.

Never forget, however, that what's good news for the oil companies and the big oil producing nations (of which Britain is still one), is generally bad news for the rest of us. The deflating oil price of the last six months has had a reflationary effect on the world economy at a time when the Asian crisis has been pulling violently in the other direction. These two influences have to some extent been cancelling each other out. If last weekend's agreement succeeds in limiting supply and raising prices, then the effect of the Asian collapse on the world economy may be that much more violent.