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The Stressed-Out Oil Industry Faces an Existential Crisis

  • Oil chiefs gather in Houston to survey bear-market wreckage
  • Saudi minister will be watched for signals on production plans
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Trying to Predict Oil Prices Is a Fools Game: UBS

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The Saudis may go public, OPEC’s in disarray, the U.S. is suddenly a global exporter, and shale drillers are seeking lifelines from investors as banks abandon them.

Welcome to oil’s new world order, full of stresses, strains and fractures. For leaders gathering in Houston next week at the IHS CERAWeek conference -- often dubbed the Davos of the energy industry -- a key question is: what will break first? Will it be the balance sheets of big U.S. shale companies? The treasuries of Venezuela and Nigeria? The resolve of Saudi Arabia, whose recent deal with Russia to freeze output levels offered the first hint of a rethink?