Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leaked confidential data about oil speculation to a number of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal. Ordinarily, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the regulatory body that oversees futures trading, does not provide identities of speculators to the public. However, the data leaked by Sanders provides a rare snapshot into the trading volumes by major speculators right before the oil price spike in the summer of 2008.
As experts from Stanford University, Rice University, the University of Massachusetts, and authorities have concluded, rampant oil speculation was the prime driver of the record high prices for crude oil three years ago.
Notably, the top speculators are noncommercial players, meaning they are companies that simply and buy and sell crude contracts with no interest in actually refining and selling the product. Each contract in the list represents 1,000 barrels of oil. The documents show the total volume of trades made on one specific day shortly before the record high price of $148 per barrel.
The data, though revealing, still does not give a complete picture of trading strategies. Speculators invest in multiple private exchanges, and trading tactics can shift from day to day. Moreover physical plays, such as buying up large quantities of actual oil and storing it on tankers or in large containers, are still largely hidden from public view...............................