Written by Frank Cotolo
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Topics: New York, Europe

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

image for Oil prices cause riots at stock exchanges
Screaming at the stock exchange just before violence broke out.

NEW YORK CITY -- Oil prices jumped to record prices the other day and traders in Europe and the United States went berserk. Experts say the surge in prices made traders violent, punching and slapping one another and stomping on the floor of the exchanges with fervent rapidity.

"When fervent rapidity set in," said one injured trader, "I tried to get out of there. But it was chaos and too violent to escape. I lost two brothers on the floor."

Police say that bodies were strewn about the exchanges' floors. "I saw bodies strewn across the floor," said an officer in the Spanish exchange, only he said it in Spanish.

A week ago, Saudi Arabia, the de facto leading member of OPEC, claimed to have a plan to halt the rise in prices. At an industry conference in Amsterdam, Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said his country would be willing to pump a lot more new oil, especially if there were enough pumpers available. After he said that, prices slid down through the week, but Ali and some OPEC officials lost interest in the whole deal, went home to their harems and the price began to rise again.

Then, fears that terrorism may begin to hamper oil production brought about panic. Crude oil for July delivery rose to $43 a barrel-the highest price in the 21 years that oil futures have been traded there.

So steep was the price that traders started to buy the oil without the barrels, causing havoc among exporters.

Then, the barrel companies said they were going out of business if they could not fill their products with oil. That was the final straw. The exchange floors became a battleground of anger and random violence.

"This won't last," said Ulamark Bostocravitz, an expert in oil import and export. "Watch. Once the price of oil goes down again, everyone will feel better."

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