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Closing bell rings on Chicago futures pits for final time
July 6, 2015 / 8:46 PM / 2 years ago

Closing bell rings on Chicago futures pits for final time

CHICAGO (Reuters) - CME Group Inc (CME.O) rang the closing bell on open-outcry futures markets on Monday after a few dozen Chicago traders donned their multicolored jackets to buy and sell soybean and Eurodollar futures the old-fashioned way one last time.

The world’s largest futures exchange operator ended most of its open-outcry futures operations in Chicago and New York without an extended review from U.S. regulators, concluding a tradition that once epitomized global financial markets but succumbed to the efficiency and speed of machines.

The din of raucous shouting and frenzied hand gestures at CME’s cavernous Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange floors has faded over the years, and made up only 1 percent of total volume by this year. The exchanges’ more active options pits will remain open for now, although they too are losing ground to electronic dealing.

Veteran traders returned to the grain floor in Chicago to witness the end of 167 years of open-outcry trading in the city where it was born. Many drifted into the octagonal trading pits before the closing bell after initially sharing stories on the sidelines.

“It felt like saying goodbye to an old friend, someone who’d been with you most of your adult life,” said John Pietrzak, a corn broker for more than 35 years. He was the last person out of the corn futures pit.

The CME shut the pits despite resistance from a small group of floor brokers and traders in Chicago, who argued the closures would hurt end-users in the Treasury and Eurodollar markets. Last month, they asked the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to open a 90-day review of the plan.

The CFTC said on Monday it would not extend its review. The closures were not considered “novel or complex” and were adequately explained by the CME, an agency spokesman said.

A CME spokeswoman declined to comment.

‘JUST CLOSE IT’

John Pietrzak (R) shows Thomas Cashman some old family photos on the Chicago Board of Trade grain trading floor in Chicago, Illinois, United States, June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Long-time floor traders had wanted the CFTC to let the pits die as planned. They felt it was inevitable that the floor would eventually close because of the shift of business to computers.

“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” said Tom Cashman, who has been on the grains floor in Chicago for more than 50 years.

Since the CME announced in February that it planned to close the futures pits in July, the trading floor has been through “the world’s longest wake” with former traders and their families visiting to say goodbye, said Scott Shellady, who is in his 28th year of trading and wears a cow-patterned jacket on the CME’s agricultural floor.

    “Just close it,” he said. “Take the Band-Aid off.”

    As the birthplace of futures trading, and with strong ties to the traditions that surround it, the CME held off the shift to an all-digital platform longer than most other exchanges.

    In 2012, CME rival IntercontinentalExchange Inc (ICE.N) silenced 142 years of open-outcry trading in New York when it closed the trading rings for sugar, cocoa and other soft commodities. They were the last of ICE’s markets to go all-electronic.

    More than a decade earlier, the London International Financial Futures Exchange became the first major futures house to abandon open-outcry when it switched abruptly to all-electronic trading.

    Last Thursday, Chicago floor traders gathered for a final group picture in the soybean futures pit. The photo op was similar to “taking a picture an hour before your execution,” Shellady said.

    “I‘m not really that emotional,” he said about the closing of the futures pits. “It’s the facts of life.”

    Additional repoting by Christine Stebbins in Chicago; Editing by Richard Chang and Matthew Lewis

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