Oil traders on the skids?

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One minute it's up, one minute it's down, but fluctuations in the price of oil should be good news for oil trading jobs. Last week, energy exchanges NYMEX and ICE reported rising reported healthy increases in profits on the back of rising oil trading volumes following peaking prices and (in the case of ICE) 'the entry of new participants in all markets.'

Anyone might think those new participants equate with new jobs, but recruiters in London say this isn't the case. Mizuho announced plans to open a new commodities trading operation last month, but other sizeable new entrants are thin on the ground.

"Banks like Merrill, Citigroup and Deutsche are hiring in commodities - including oil," says one. "But they're holding out until they find the best people."

'Banks really aren't driving the hiring right now - it's more down to commodities trading houses, funds and oil majors," says Jakob Bloch, managing director of recruiters Commodity Appointments. "On the whole, in the oil space there hasn't been a particularly buoyant hiring market of late."

Part of the problem appears to be that top talent is locked in. "A lot of people hired recently were on two year guarantees," says Elliot Pickering, an oil specialist at search firm Human Capital. "There's now a big difference between what people want and what's on the table."

There's also the threat of increased regulation from the US, with Congress threatening to impose limits on oil-related 'speculation.'

An analyst at one US house in London says this could make life very difficult for oil traders at US banks: "How do you differentiate between trading and speculation? This could become a bureaucratic nightmare."

If Congressional threats come to pass, he says oil traders at US banks will be better off moving to European firms, or failing that, another commodity class.