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HONG KONG — Economists are arguing whether they can see the green shoots of economic recovery or whether they are still only the yellow weeds of continuing recession. But global oil markets have been hyperactive and reacting as if the green shoots have already burst into flower on the way to a full-grown prosperity tree.

So what is going on? Is this another case of speculators seeing the opportunity of a quick billion bucks and betting early that recovery will send prices soaring as happened in 2008? Or is a more fundamental shift occurring in the axes of supply and demand? Prices of benchmark crude in both London and New York leaped upward and rose above $72 a barrel recently, a far cry from the $35 a barrel forecast for 2009 by the Economist Intelligence Unit or the $42 a barrel expectation of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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