Oil ignores nature’s call

Is oil headed down to $80 a barrel? says Moira Herbst in BusinessWeek.com. Many analysts think so. Unlike similar storms in past years, Hurricane Gustav was not greeted with a rally in oil markets, and in fact oil prices dropped after it became clear that Gustav would give the U.S. only “a glancing blow.” What’s going on? A rally in the U.S. dollar is weighing on oil. But it also seems that the “choppy U.S. economy” scares traders more than choppy Gulf waters. As more storms gather force and OPEC meets next week, though, “the only certainty in the oil market remains volatility.”

The rental flat line

Office rental prices jumped 10 percent in 2007, have been stagnating this year, and “will be flat to edging lower through 2009,” says Jerome Idaszak in Kiplinger.com. That’s good news if you are a business, but not such glad tidings if you’re a commercial landlord. And things will only get worse for landlords “if job losses become more severe than anticipated,” and as excess supply from the real estate “exuberance” of 2006 and 2007 hits the market. If you’re a tenant, you’ll likely see cash incentives and some months of free rent if you play your cards right. So if your contract is up for renewal, negotiate a short lease. Next year will look more favorable for rent talks.