WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Federal regulators have launched a probe into whether large institutional funds that have bought up futures contracts for oil and other commodities may have skewed the market and contributed to higher gasoline retail prices, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On Thursday, May 29, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission revealed it had opened an investigation of major investors, including pension funds and commodity index funds, in December. The commission said it had reached agreements with an overseas commodity exchange to share data about buyers and sellers, the Times reported.

In a released statement, the commission said: "All Americans are significantly affected by high energy prices -- whether it's paying more at the pump or higher costs for farmers and entrepreneurs."

Earlier in May, 22 senators sent a letter to the commission requesting such an investigation into new investors. Normally, the commission doesn't disclose its ongoing investigations. But commissioners said they were making an exception this time because of "recent dramatic increases in the price of crude oil."

Major investors, such as pension funds, have moved into the commodities markets through the use of index funds that invest in futures contracts and securities tied to them. The commission probe will in part look into whether institutional investors have played a major role in the run-up of oil prices.