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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE: Oil News Roundup: January 4, 2007 4:40 p.m.

Crude-oil futures tumbled nearly 5% to settle at less than $56 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, continuing their worst two-day selloff since December 2004.

Here is Thursday’s roundup of oil and energy news:

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SELLOFF MAY SIGNAL SLOWDOWN: The brutal selloff in crude oil, copper and other commodities in recent days may be a signal that market participants expect a slowdown in the global economy, “likely one of considerable magnitude,” MarketWatch reports. Then again, the terrified flight of speculators from commodity markets isn’t helping much, either, Market Beat points out.

HOTTEST ON RECORD: Deepening drought in Australia. Stronger typhoons in Asia. Floods in Latin America. British climate scientists predict that a resurgent El Nino climate trend combined with higher levels of greenhouse gases could touch off a fresh round of ecological disasters and make 2007 the world’s hottest year on record.

•Australia Bears the Brunt: Australia seems to be suffering from global warming worse than any other part of the world, the Financial Times reports.

•Suez Shareholder Raises Stake: Albert Frère, Suez SA’s largest shareholder, has raised his stake in the water and energy group, a move that solidifies the Belgian financier’s position as a key player in the company’s controversial merger with French utility Gaz de France.

•Ukraine Survives Higher Prices: The warnings in Ukraine verged on the apocalyptic when Russia sharply raised prices for natural gas a year ago. Many feared factories would close, leading to mass layoffs and grinding industry to a halt. But Ukraine’s economy leaped ahead, its businesses quickly adapting to the higher costs, the Associated Press reports.

•Aim Fatigue: Oil-and-gas-exploration companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Aim market have fallen out of favor, the FT reports (subscription required).

•AGL Approaches Origin: Australia’s AGL Energy Ltd. said it has made a preliminary merger approach to rival Origin Energy Ltd. hoping to create the country’s largest gas and electricity supplier. A deal could be worth more than $10 billion. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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