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Twenty-fourteen was a year of several economic surprises. First is the unexpected drop in the price of oil that began in June. The price drop has helped some countries, while hurting others. Increased American oil production is one reason for the drop in world oil prices. Experts say slowing economies in China and Europe have reduced demand for oil. Japan’s economy also slowed and then went into recession. Increasing supply and decreasing demand usually result in falling prices. In the past, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, has reacted to price drops by decreasing production. But this year that did not happen. The huge drop in the price of oil this year helped create another major story: Russia’s slowing economy. Russian officials said they expect the country’s economy to shrink in 2015, or go into recession. The exchange rate for Russia’s currency, the ruble, has dropped sharply against the dollar. In mid-December, the European Union agreed to increase sanctions against Russia. But the U.S. economy was strengthening this year. The Department of Commerce says the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 5 percent from July to September. Also 2014 saw the Dow Jones Industrial Index, a widely reported stock market measure, climbed above 18,000 for the first time. Also for the first time ever, a woman, Janet Yellen, was confirmed as head the U.S. central bank. December brought a major surprise: President Barack Obama announced an end to sanctions against Cuba. The change in policy will permit increased trade and financial dealings between the two countries.