Tuesday, December 01, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Open Outcry

I'm a futures trader. I buy and sell futures contracts for fun and profit. You can try and complicate the process, but in the end that's all it really is. I trade electronically on the Chicago Mercatile Exchange, NY Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade. Before the advent of electronic trading, these marketplaces operated using a process called "open outcry" and they still do, just not as much as they used to. This process is a simple auction system where buyers attempt to buy contracts at the lowest price possible and sellers attempt to sell at the highest price possible until both parties agree on a price. The gesturing, yelling, shoving and whatnot is simply used to gain the attention of prospective buyers and sellers. You've got a contract you want to sell @ 1104, so flash 4 fingers with your palm OUT and get the attention of someone who wants to buy them from you (look for someone with 4 fingers up and their palm IN) and do it fast before they sense the market is moving lower and decide to lower their bid.

Sadly, open outcry is slowly fading into the horizon. The overwhelming majority of futures contracts are traded electronically and several exchanges have switched to 100% electronic trading. There is simply too much demand for these products that it makes open outcry inefficient and damn near impossible considering the sheer volume. But, the essence of what I do is no different than what floor traders do...it's just not as loud, violent or exciting. There's a great deal of nostalgia and respect watching people trade in an open outcry exchange and myself and thousands of other traders across the globe owe everything to the open outcry system and the markets that were established so very long ago using the exact same bid/offer system we still use today.

For today's YouTube Tuesday, here's a glimpse into what the essence of trading and open outcry is. This is a trailer for an upcoming documentary called FLOORED. It is filmed on the floors of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade; exchanges I participate in (electronically) each and every day. It's a sort of homage to days gone by and the characters that still participate in an open outcry environment and a way to let the rest of the world--hopefully--gain a respect for and understanding of markets that affect their lives each and every day, whether they realize it or not.

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