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Oil Prices Rise to a Record $94 a Barrel, Stocks Fall Sharply

The oil price touched $94.25 a barrel before falling back to close Thursday in New York at $93.40. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

Oil is up 59 percent in the past year and has risen 10 percent in the past four weeks.

Financial analysts are divided on the outlook for crude. Most predict continuing rises to over $100 a barrel. However, Dennis Gartman, the author of a popular financial newsletter, believes oil has risen in a speculative bubble and will soon fall back sharply.

"I think you could readily see $75 crude oil in the next month or two," said Dennis Gartman. "That wouldn't be shocking at all. If someone had told you you'd see $75 crude oil a year ago, you'd have been laughed at because it was trading at $50. Now, when I tell you it could go back to $75, it seems rather incredulous."

Gartman spoke on Bloomberg Television.

The New York stock market was down sharply Thursday and closed on the session lows. The Dow Jones Industrials lost 362 points to 13,567. The 2.6 percent drop was its worst since October 19, the 20th anniversary of the 1987 stock market crash when the Dow industrials lost 25 percent.

Thursday's sharp decline was triggered by brokerage downgrades of Citigroup, the largest US bank. Citigroup stock was down seven percent on fears that it may incur large as yet unknown losses resulting from the investments in sub-prime mortgages that have gone bad. Other banks and brokerages were also down sharply.

The problems with bad housing loans surfaced earlier this year as falling home prices caused many problem borrowers to fall behind in their monthly payments. Home prices in the United States have been falling for over one year and no let up is in sight. While the central bank's recent reductions in interest rates have brought some relief, the problem is still afflicting financial markets.

Despite rapidly rising oil prices and the housing slowdown, the US economy continues to perform well as gross domestic product rose at a nearly four percent rate in the July to September quarter. The stock market is up substantially for the year and touched record highs less than a month ago.