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Oil prices to be probed by US regulator CFTC

telegraph.co.uk

Oil prices to be probed by US regulator CFTC

By James Quinn, Wall Street Correspondent

Last Updated: 6:23am BST 30/05/2008

 

 

America’s leading commodities regulator has launched an unprecedented investigation into possible market manipulation in the US crude oil market amid record prices which continue to cripple various parts of the global economy.

  A gas station attendant puts up higher gas prices in Menlo Park, California
Oil prices hit a record high of $135.14 a barrel last week

The Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC), working closely with other international regulators including the Financial Services Authority in the UK, has begun a series of detailed inquiries over concerns that energy speculators are behind the rising oil price. 

In a detailed statement, the CFTC admitted for the first time that it began its investigation in December, taking what it called the “extraordinary step” of disclosing the probe “because of today’s unprecedented market conditions”. 

The CFTC declined to discuss the specifics of the investigation, but stressed that all of its enforcement inquiries were focused on “ensuring that the markets are properly policed for manipulation and abusive practices”.

Walt Lukken, acting chairman of the CFTC, admitted: “In addition to the CFTC’s ongoing examination of the role of fundamental economic forces and new investors in the recent commodity market price increases, the agency continues to pursue one of its primary missions – to deter, detect and punish futures market manipulation.”

The development adds fuel to the view that the recent surge in oil prices – which hit record highs of $135.14 a barrel last week – has been largely the work of speculators in the energy markets rather than any actual increase in demand.

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The CFTC is believed to be focusing particularly on speculators working in energy-related hedge funds and other investment houses who have been making complex bets that the price of oil will increase over the coming months.

The FSA yesterday signed an agreement with the CFTC, and with ICE Futures Europe – which runs the leading European energy exchange from London – to agree to share surveillance information for crude oil trading, including data on contracts based on West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil that are traded in London.

The pact extends a pre-existing arrangement with the CFTC, and will allow the two regulators to monitor suspicious trades on both sides of the Atlantic, something that is vital due to the increasingly global nature of energy trading.

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  • The FSA admitted that the British regulator regularly shares information with the CFTC under the terms of their 2006 pact “to assist in the detection of the potential abuses or manipulative trading practices that involve trading in related contracts on UK and US derivative exchanges”.

    Oil prices fell yesterday after the US Energy Information Administration revealed that demand for petrol had eased slightly. The cost of a barrel of crude oil in New York ended down $4.41 at $126.62, its lowest level in almost a fortnight.

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  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/05/30/cnoil130.xml

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