In a report published this week, the CFTC said that strong world economic growth had outstripped "sluggish" expansion of supply, meaning that "very large price increases have occurred as the market balances supply and demand".
The spectre of speculation has already led Congress to press the CFTC to close the "London loophole" by imposing more restrictions on the trading of oil futures by US customers on foreign exchanges.
But although there has been a dramatic rise in volumes of oil derivatives traded over the past few years, an examination of trading records has shown no evidence that groups of speculators are moving spot prices rather than reacting to them, the CFTC said. Low inventories and geopolitical worries, as well as the difficulty of substituting other energy sources for oil in the short term, had also contributed to the high and volatile crude price, it added.
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