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The manipulators
The manipulators
Are shady players to blame for sticker shock at the gas pump? Regulators are investigating.

The theory: Regulators have opened an investigation into possible rigging of the oil futures market. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission says it wants to ensure U.S. energy markets "function properly and operate free from manipulation and abuse." Regulators are on the lookout for possible misreporting of trade prices and so-called wash sales, which are off-setting trades that raise prices without the traders taking on any risk. With gas fetching around $4 a gallon lately, "we need more immediate, aggressive and comprehensive action to ensure that American consumers are not being ripped off at the pump," Sen. Hillary Clinton said last week.

Reality check: It's impossible to say for sure that there isn't any manipulation, of course. But few investors believe manipulation is responsible for crude's record run-up. The probe is a "waste of time," billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens said this week.

NEXT: The index speculators
Last updated June 05 2008: 10:42 AM ET

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