Obama still concerned about oil speculation: White House
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama remains concerned about speculation in the oil markets even though he has not proposed concrete steps to rein it in, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday.
Asked why Obama's regulatory reforms this week did not include changes to deal with speculation in oil markets, Gibbs said, "I don't think the president's concern has changed" but the proposals this week were focused on stabilizing financial markets.
"I don't know if it's a part of a future proposal," Gibbs said of dealing with oil speculation.
"The great concern that drove the process for financial regulatory reform that was outlined by the president yesterday was ensuring that the causes for the economic catastrophe that we saw over the past many months ... be remedied to ensure that they don't happen again," he said.
As a presidential candidate, Obama supported enaction of requirements that would limit U.S. energy futures to trade only on regulated exchanges. He also urged gathering more data on index funds and other large investors in futures market blamed for record high oil prices last year.
Oil prices hit records above $147 a barrel last summer, then fell as the recession took hold, hitting lows in the $30s last December. Since then oil has surged, and was trading above $71 a barrel on Thursday on the New York Mercantile exchange.
Several lawmakers have blamed excessive speculation in the futures market for the latest surge in oil prices, which is also lifting gasoline costs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, introduced legislation last week that would order the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its emergency powers to stop market speculators from pushing up oil prices.
Last summer when oil prices hit record levels, numerous bills aimed at reining in speculation were offered, but no major overhaul of energy markets was adopted.
The CFTC, which oversees commodity markets, said earlier this year it has not found evidence that any specific traders were responsible for the run up in oil prices in 2008.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and David Alexander; Editing by David Gregorio)
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