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Riches Up the Yantze: Taking Much More Stock of Shipping News

Traders Magazine, October 2004

Kathryn M. Welling

It was an article of faith when I was growing up in the Fifties: Dig a hole deep enough in your back yard and you'd get to China. Now it seems that China - and its belated industrialization - is at the bottom of every story on economic and energy policy. But could the gradual addition of China's billions to the global economy really be soaking up virtually every barrel of crude pumped from the ground - and pressing the pedal to the metal of oil prices in the process? Have we finally reached the Malthusian limits of Hubbert's curve? Or, are other forces at work, jacking up quotes on petroleum products to record levels? Processes beyond the "terror premium?" But could we perhaps "simply" be witnessing an orgy of speculation? And it this speculative binge being fuelled by official and unofficial stockpiling, not to mention notoriously untransparent and often inefficient supply and transportation systems? I took my wonderings and musings about the oil market to shipping industry specialist Jay C. Goodgal, who runs a clutch of Pound Ridge, N.Y.-based firms and partnerships sporting "Castalia." Investing in or advising global shippers is central to their games. I interviewed Jay twice in the pages of Barron's, once in 1996 and once in 1998. Both interviews were spectacularly mis-timed. I have to ask, given our track record. Why agree to talk to me?

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