Oil Prices Climb with Favorable Data – European Anti-Trust Officials Launch Raid on Several Major Oil Companies – Greenback Flirts with 3-Year High

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Oil prices for June delivery are up 1.2% in Friday’s morning session following positive news from leading indicators. The University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index jumped to 83.7 in May from 76.4 in April, beating MarketWatch forecasts. The leading economic index also rose 0.6% to 96 in April after a decline of 0.2% in March.

Oil headlines at home are temperate compared to overseas where, acting on the whiff of potential price-fixing, anti-trust officials Tuesday launched a surprise raid on the offices of several oil industry companies, including Britain’s BP and Royal Dutch Shell who confirmed they are part of the investigation.

The European Union Commission announced the raids today, and said the probe centers on concerns that some industry players garbled the pricing process by rigging prices and preventing other firms from submitting their own prices, which could have significantly impacted prices at the pump.

“Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact” on the price of commodities like gasoline, which “could potentially harm final consumers,” the Commission said in its announcement.

Though it stopped short of naming which contracts are under investigation, the Commission says the probe covers a range of oil products: crude oil, biofuels, refined oil products such as gasoline, heating oil and petrochemicals.

With no legal deadline for completion, the investigation, which trails back to 2002, could take years to finish, says the Commission.

Back at home, U.S. gold prices are ticking lower for the seventh straight day, marking a weekly decline of nearly 5% while the greenback strengthens to near its strongest level in three years on buzz about the possible wind-down of the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program.

The ICE dollar index (DXY) is up 0.6% in Friday’s late morning trade. The index, which measures the dollar’s movement against six other major currencies, sat at 84.140, hovering at levels last seen in July 2010.

markets. Speaking at the Chicago central bank’s annual meeting on bank structure and competition, Bernanke said the Fed is closely watching the balance of potential risks associated with low interest rates.

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