Price-Moving China Oil Trades Fan Concerns

Somewhere Between the Bid and Ask

By Sarah Kent and Georgi Kantchev

The growing clout of state-backed Chinese oil traders is raising concerns over their influence on the price of crude as trade increasingly flows into markets with little regulatory oversight.

Last August, Chinaoil, the trading arm of China National Petroleum Corp., swept up around 90% of the crude then available in the Dubai market, which sets the price of the Middle East’s most important benchmark. That pushed up the price of oil by hundreds of millions of dollars for dozens of Asian refiners, according to industry executives.

“The [August] Chinese play would be a fiery red flag for me,” said Bart Chilton, a former commissioner with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “Anytime you have a significant concentration in a market in the hands of one player, that should be a concern for regulators.”

Chinaoil has bought up more than half the crude being sold…

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