A volatile world makes for choppy markets, and choppy markets make for rich profits
IN THE 1950S the oil market was in the gift of the “Seven Sisters”. These giant Western firms controlled 85% of global crude reserves, as well as the entire production process, from the well to the pump. They fixed prices and divvied up markets between themselves. Trading oil outside of the clan was virtually impossible. By the 1970s that dominance was cracked wide open. Arab oil embargoes, nationalisation of oil production in the Persian Gulf and the arrival of buccaneering trading houses such as Glencore, Vitol and Trafigura saw the Sisters lose their sway. By 1979, the independent traders were responsible for trading two-fifths of the world’s oil.