BUSINESS

President Obama wants oil markets monitored more closely

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"The president has all the tools available to him if he believes that the oil market is being manipulated," Boehner told reporters Tuesday. "Where's his Federal Trade Commission? Where is the SEC? He's got agencies there. So instead of just another political gimmick, why doesn't he put his administration to work to get to the bottom of it?"

(Photo: Flickr/Kevin Spencer)

Boehner used the acronym for the Securities and Exchange Commission, whose duties include regulating markets.

Senior administration officials who put together the proposal would not go as far as to say that market manipulation is responsible for rising gas prices, but the officials said they wanted to curtail the ability of speculators to take unlawful advantage of oil price volatility.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plan.

"None of these steps by themselves will bring gas prices down overnight," Obama said. "But it will prevent market manipulation and make sure we're looking out for American consumers."

At issue is the increasing role of investment in oil futures contracts by pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, exchange traded funds and other investors.

Much of that money is betting that oil prices will rise.

Analysts say it is possible that such speculation has somewhat inflated the price of oil. At the same time, investors can also bet that prices will go down - indeed, speculators have been credited for low natural gas prices.

Studies of the effects of speculation on oil markets indicate that it probably increases volatility, but doesn't have a major effect on average prices.

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