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Media Ignores Russia's Influence on Oil Prices

Its conflict with Georgia has the potential to significantly impact oil prices, at least in the short term.
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Did you hear this weekend about that giant country that invaded the other country? The business media apparently haven't -- or at least they don't think it's worth a mention.

But we'll get to their oily oversight in a moment. First, a review, because it's all part of a pattern.

When the oil market was rising, we saw the business media ignore reality and good reason to frame the market as something that would go up forever. Who could forget what The Business Press Maven back in May called the dumbest headline he had seen in his entire misspent life: "

Oil Hits $129, Heads for $130


They Just Don't Get Oil!

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That thought, as it were, contained the implicit assumption that the market would hit $130 before $128 -- as if a 1-point move meant anything.

As if that was not bad enough, we soon got articles leading with the

flashy claim that oil would hit $200 a barrel

without any supporting evidence in the text that followed.

Well, lest you think that the business media only take leave of their senses when the oil market is rising, look what it did this weekend as it was falling. And remember: The business media follows the crowd even as it pushes the movement of the crowd further in the same direction.

Well, crowd, oil has moved in a different direction of late. It's fallen at the pumps for something like two dozen straight days, and the price of a barrel of crude could now be framed as something like "115, Heading to 114."

OK, so it wasn't quite that bad. But on a major point, it was worse.


, for one, had a headline about how "Cheaper oil may lift stocks" this week, with a lead that echoed the sentiment -- but guess what? Read the market summary article backwards and forwards and tell me if you see even the slightest mention of Russia's violent contretemps with Georgia.

The area is close to prominent oil pipelines and can potentially have a big (at the very least short-term) impact on oil prices. But

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, so taken by the trend in recent price movement, is blind to the new factor. Typical. At one point, it mentions "reasons to tread lightly," but then it starts talking about stimulus from the tax rebates fading. Not war. Not the nearby pipelines.


Associated Press

, in a market summary story that also ran on Sunday, was no better. It ran the headline "Investors eye oil, dollar, retail sales this week." Don't you think that investors eyeing oil would also be eyeing the front page of every newspaper in the nation this weekend, which carried news of the carnage in Georgia?

Nope, no mention. Maybe let the fighting drag on for another week of so and the bulk of the business media will catch on, connecting fighting near prominent oil pipelines to fear and higher prices.

You won't see it weighed in as a factor in many market reports, but if you want a quick primer on the geopolitical situation as it relates the oil markets, read "

Russia's Geopolitical Aims Trump Investors' Concerns

" in this morning's

Wall Street Journal


Here's an important sampling:

"The conflict has the potential to affect markets around the world, in part because of its proximity to pipelines carrying oil from the Caspian Sea. A rise in oil prices on worries about those pipelines could actually strengthen the hand of Russia, which depends on the commodity for much of its export revenue. Georgian officials said Sunday that Russian warplanes had bombed areas close to a pipeline that stretches through Georgia from the Azerbaijani port of Baku to Ceyhan in Turkey. BP PLC (BP) - Get BP Plc Report, which has a 30% stake in the pipeline, said it was taking measures to protect the flow of oil. On Friday, oil prices tumbled despite the conflict."

The Business Press Maven has no sense of how this conflict will play out. All I know is that only the short-sighted, trend-following-and-accentuating business media would not even deign to include it as a big potential factor in the markets this week.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page. For his "Business Press Maven� column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;

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