Oil Prices:

Analysis of Oil Futures Market Prices Since Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait

GGD-91-73BR: Published: May 16, 1991. Publicly Released: May 16, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's (CFTC) data on oil futures market activity between July 30, 1990 and February 28, 1991, focusing on: (1) whether the futures market manipulated oil prices; and (2) CFTC and the New York Mercantile Exchange's (NYMEX) methods for monitoring markets.

GAO found that: (1) oil futures prices reflected actual changes in supply and demand conditions; (2) between September and October 1990, CFTC experienced the largest single-day price movements for crude oil on record, but that extreme movement did not lead to a breakdown or other problems in the futures market; (3) CFTC held market surveillance meetings to review significant market developments, and CFTC could take such actions as making informal contacts, sending warning letters, or filing injunctions to counter market problems; (4) both NYMEX and CFTC monitored trading and disciplined traders; (5) speculators had limits on the number of contracts they could hold, and commercial firms had limits on their participation in energy futures markets; (6) energy futures contracts were subjected to CFTC approval to minimize market manipulation; and (7) NYMEX instituted a price limit on futures contracts.

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