AS A new trading year began this week in the art-deco tower that houses the Chicago Board of Trade, big men were clustered around pits dealing in futures and options tied to various commodities. Their approach dates back to the building’s opening in 1930, and was once familiar in cities throughout America. But after decades of attrition, on December 30th the CME Group (named after the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) closed the “open outcry” trading pits that it operated in New York. In America, Chicago’s hue and cry has become unique.
Even this exchange is a shadow of its former self. There are now nine pits, down from 32 in 2007. A once teeming trading floor was closed in 2015. Most activity in the contracts still traded in the pits is electronic. No one in the surviving CME pits in Chicago seems worried by the New York closures. But they have a symbolic impact. The markets have long been a colourful, fractious component of America’s financial architecture.
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