A surprisingly small group of investors and oil traders control the vast majority of the world’s oil contracts, and they are exerting tremendous influence over the market, reports the Washington Post. Regulators have found that a few financial firms speculating for themselves or their clients hold 81% of the oil contracts on NYMEX—a far bigger share than had been previously reported. A single Swiss firm was found to hold as much as 11% of the contracts in July.
Many lawmakers contend the rapid increase in oil prices was due to market speculation. Commodity Futures Trading Commission officials had disagreed until discovering—accidentally—that one Swiss firm, Vitol, controlled a shocking percentage of contracts. "It is now evident that speculators in the energy futures markets play a much larger role than previously thought," said Rep. John D. Dingell.