US FTC opens investigation into oil pricing, following EU -Bloomberg

NEW YORK, June 24 Mon Jun 24, 2013 2:07pm EDT

NEW YORK, June 24 (Reuters) - The U.S Federal Trade Commission has followed the European Union in opening a formal probe into how crude oil and refined fuel prices are set, Bloomberg News reported on Monday without naming any sources.

It said the investigation was in a preliminary stage, but would likely broaden. The FTC is reviewing the progress of European authorities, and has agreed with the Department of Justice's antitrust division to handle the probe, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The FTC has conducted several inquiries into U.S. oil prices over the past few years, and is often called on to investigate possible anti-competitive practices when prices surge. However those investigations have typically been focused on market fundamentals rather than the mechanics of setting prices.

The probe comes more than a month after European authorities raided the offices of major oil traders including Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Statoil to investigate suspected manipulation. They also visited price publisher Platts, a unit of McGraw-Hill Financial, whose daily price assessments are widely used as the benchmark for many global oil markets.