Lubricating the oil cycle

Total's north sea oil rig

The oil price is on the rise again. Having fallen below $50 per barrel of Brent crude, it's currently trading close to $67.

So while drivers and oil-burning businesses find prices rising a bit (but well below levels seen last summer, when it was $115), is that the crisis over for the oil industry?

No, but it does suggest that the most recent episode of volatility found a floor.

The price is well capable of taking another downward lurch. But as the supply of oil declines from fracked reserves in North America - those being short-term wells which produce for a matter of months before needing re-fracked - then supply and demand are meeting at a higher price than in January.

That shouldn't be a surprise. The first quarter was expected to be the time of maximum supply, before it reduced. That's so long as the Saudis did nothing to throttle back on their production. On the contrary, they increased it a bit.

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More than merely paper losses

Tullis Russell product

Scotland used to be quite good at making paper. It fed a healthy demand, fuelled by all that world-beating literacy and education.

The industry is thought to have begun in Dalry, Edinburgh, as early as 1590. As a sizeable market for paper in government, publishing, commerce, the university and the law courts, the capital continued to dominate, with dozens of mills along the Water of Leith.

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Who to trust at Alliance Trust?

Electronic read-out of share prices along its front of the Alliance Trust building

You might not notice the big modern black box on Dundee's West Marketgait unless your eye is caught by the electronic read-out of share prices along its frontage.

It's just across the road from Debenhams and the Overgate shopping centre, but this isn't a building most Taysiders would take in on a day in the city centre.

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Go compare: Scotland's place in the world


Ronald Reagan got into the White House with the question: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?". So 35 years later, are you better off than at the last election?

Part of the answer is the highly contested issue of real spending power. Tories can tell a positive story using real household net income (including benefit and tax changes as well as pay), while Labour prefers to tell a negative story about squeezed spending power, using real earnings.

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Scotland's full fiscal challenges

British banknotes

That £7.6bn figure won't go away. Until now, that is. It now has companion numbers. And they're even bigger.

So £9.7bn may now become the big number that gets batted around the final two weeks of the election campaign - and beyond.

Read full article Scotland's full fiscal challenges

Is your job a flexible friend or foe?

Jobcentre window

Something has gone surprisingly right about the jobs market. Even David Cameron is describing it as a "miracle" - generously ascribing to supernatural powers what other prime ministers might have claimed, at election time, as their own handiwork.

The most recent figures show 248,000 more people in work across the UK, when winter is compared with last autumn. At the same time, 76,000 fewer people were looking for work.

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Clydesdale woes worsen

Clydesdale Bank banknote

Mis-selling payment protection insurance? Which bank wasn't at it?

The compensation of customers has been providing a financial stimulus to the British economy far greater than any of the magic money tree promises coming from the political parties currently on the campaign trail.

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Offshore profit slump

Shell logo on shirt

Recovery from recession includes at least three pay-out bonuses for those who own the capital. Competitors have been closed down or taken over. Assets are going cheaply for those feeling acquisitive. And workers are poorly placed to push for higher wages.

So it's no great surprise, after such a long downturn, that profitability is doing rather well. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just published figures showing as much.

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Rangers SNAFU, part 376

Rangers FC

It will come as no surprise to followers of events at Ibrox that it's back to code SNAFU - that is, the situation is normal, in that it's all, er, fouled up.

Thirty days ago, the nominated adviser for the holding company, Rangers International Football Club (RIFC), resigned. Trading on the stock exchange was suspended. The company was given 30 days to find a new one.

Read full article Rangers SNAFU, part 376

Scotch's trade winds turn stormy

Distillery worker

The mast and sails haven't been ripped off the good ship Scotch Whisky amid stormy trade winds, but after a decade of sterling export performance, she looks ready for a major overhaul.

The fall in total exports last year, published by the Scotch Whisky Association, won't come as a surprise to anyone who has been watching the big distillers publish their financial figures in recent months.

Read full article Scotch's trade winds turn stormy