Taper tantrums

The European Central Bank has signalled the end is nigh for its role as the stimulator of last resort. Seven years into ECB president Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” (more on that phrase later), and the eurozone economy is nearly deemed ready to stand unaided.

You can see why. GDP growth is strong, employment is up, and the bloc’s manufacturing sector expanded in August at the fastest rate since 2011, and the OECD leading indicators for the region are satisfactory.

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Searching for the bottom line

The European oil majors’ first-quarter results are in, and the headlines are unanimous: the sector is roaring as profits are soaring.

The latter cannot be denied. Statoil’s profit was up by 74pc, Total’s by 56pc. Shell turned a four-fold increase in profit. Even BP was in the black. Compare with last year – as we must – and the bottom line is looking fine.

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Won’t get fooled again?

It’s not even been four years.

In April 2013, then Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi said there was nothing to fear from shale oil production in the US. A few days later, Naimi adviser Ibrahim al-Muhanna told Gulf Co-operation Council oil ministers that any concerns they had that shale oil would lead to a huge increase in supply and a collapse in prices were “misplaced”.

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