KARACHI - The OPEC countries must be mourning these days as the crude oil prices have further plummeted to $41 per barrel this week. In July, the crude oil of OPEC climbed up to the highest benchmark of 143 dollars a barrel. However, since July 2008 the oil prices have steadily derailed due to international financial crisis and economic slowdown and settled at $41 per barrels on last Tuesday. In the United States and the United Kingdom the crude oil prices fell to around $45/barrel although the oil price there mounted to $148/barrel in July, the highest-ever level. Interesting to note is that despite a much hue and cry by the OPEC members the crude oil prices are tumbling everyday that indicates that the OPEC's cartel alone was hapless this time in reigning in falling prices. In fact, the oil dealers, stockists and futures trading companies in the US and the UK were very strong partners of oil producers in jacking up prices. But as the financial institutions in the US and the UK are confronting the worst-ever crisis, the key oil stakeholders in these countries have sidelined from the oil markets, as a result of which the crude oil prices have become very volatile and descending every week. The OPEC members believe that the roots of the crisis of crude oil prices can be found in the US subprime mortgage crisis, which began in summer last year, at a time of very little financial regulation, when loans were made beyond the true ability of many borrowers to service them in a credit-driven society. To remedy the situation, the Federal Reserve Board tried to provide liquidity to the banking sector, through a series of interest rate cuts and other measures. However, these cuts, together with the worsening economic outlook, weakened the dollar and saw a flight from it into commodity markets, including oil, as investors around the world sought better financial returns. Through hedging against the falling value of the dollar and inflation in this way, these international speculators were treating crude oil futures contracts as financial assets. Their actions greatly increased the amount of activity on futures markets and this had a big influence on crude oil prices. These rose by an astonishing amount, from $92 a barrel at the start of this year to a peak of $143/b in early July, for OPEC's Reference Basket. Significantly, this happened while the market was well-supplied with crude. In other words, prices were going firmly against market fundamentals. During that period, we said many times in OPEC that the poorly regulated international financial sector was the main driving force behind the heavy volatility. And the global financial turmoil of the past two months has supported our statements. The price collapse since July has seen the reverse side of the coin. Without the support of sound market fundamentals, oil prices fell sharply, when the bubble burst and the world economic outlook weakened. OPEC claims that sharp fall in oil prices within such a very short period, and the volatility that goes with it have serious implications for the future of the industry. With oil prices below half what they were at the beginning of the year, both producers and consumers should have cause to be concerned about the investment climate for the industry. The short-term outlook for the oil market remains gloomy as the global economy is slowing down faster than expected, and it is looking more and more likely that world oil demand will actually fall next year. We need to take action or actions in this critical period in support of market order and stability for the short, medium and long terms.