ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss competition regulator said on Monday it had opened an investigation into possible collusion in the precious metals market by several major banks.
Switzerland's WEKO watchdog said its investigation, the result of a preliminary probe, was looking at possible collusion in setting bid/ask spreads in the market by UBS <UBSG.VX>, Julius Baer <BAER.VX>, Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE>, HSBC <HSBA.L>, Barclays <BARC.L>, Morgan Stanley <MS.N> and Mitsui <8031.T>.
"It (WEKO) has indications that possible prohibited competitive agreements in the trading of precious metals were agreed among the banks mentioned," WEKO said in a statement.
A WEKO spokesman said the investigation would likely conclude in either 2016 or 2017, adding that the banks were suspected of violating Swiss corporate rules.
The WEKO investigation is the latest in a string of probes into manipulation of the precious metals and foreign exchange markets.
Last year, Switzerland's financial regulator FINMA said it had found a "clear attempt" to manipulate precious metals price benchmarks during a cross-market investigation into trading at UBS.
In May, four major banks pleaded guilty to trying to manipulate foreign exchange rates and, with two others, were fined nearly $6 billion in another settlement in a global investigation into the $5 trillion-a-day market.
A spokesman for Zurich-based UBS declined to comment. The other banks were not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Louise Heavens)