CME amends grain-trading plan after industry complains

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- CME Group Inc., the world’s largest futures exchange, amended a proposal for expanded trading in grains to 21 hours a day after withdrawing an earlier plan for 22 hours that drew complaints from clients.

Trading on CME Group’s Chicago Board of Trade will be from 5 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday through Friday, the company said today in a statement. The CBOT currently allows trading 17 hours a day. No date was set for the transition, which will occur “as soon as possible” and no later than June 4, said Chris Grams, a spokesman for the Chicago-based company.

CME originally planned to expand access to markets including corn, soybeans and wheat on May 14 to thwart new competition from IntercontinentalExchange Inc., the energy and agriculture market known as ICE, which began offering grain contracts for the first time this week. CME delayed its changes until May 20, after traders including R.J. O’Brien & Associates objected. Yesterday, CME withdrew its 22-hour plan in a filing with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“I don’t think they’re confused, I just don’t think CME wants to do it, but ICE is forcing their hand,” said Dan Kuechenmeister, the manager of the commodities department at RBC Wealth Management in Minneapolis. “They were getting a lot of push-back from the clearing firms.”

Commodity Trading

ICE already allows grain trading 22 hours a day with new contracts it offered starting May 14, and trading already has expanded in commodity markets, including energy.

Crude oil trades from 6 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Sunday through Friday on the CME’s New York Mercantile Exchange, and currencies trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Treasury futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are exchanged 23 hours a day.

“We’ve had reports during trading hours in the financials and energies for a while, so maybe it’s time to grow up and be like the rest of them,” said Tom Leffler, owner of Leffler Commodities LLC in Augusta, Kansas. “I will admit trying to digest a report that’s going to swing a market can be frustrating, but the market can have the same knee-jerk reaction two minutes after the numbers come out that they have two hours after the numbers come out.”

The National Grain & Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association, the two largest U.S. grain- handling organizations, objected to CME’s shift to a 22-hour trading day because markets would be open during the release of U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, which currently are published when CBOT trading is closed. The groups said expanded hours will increase volatility and reduce their ability to make informed decisions.

Deal Reached

The revised plan for a four-hour increase in trading hours rather than five was completed after discussions between exchange officials and the grain groups, CME’s Grams said by telephone today.

“This important change will provide time during normal business hours for grain, feed and grain-processing operations and other merchants to reconcile their trading accounts and perform other required accounting and back-office operations without incurring the significant additional expense of hiring or providing overtime to employees performing these important functions,” Randall C. Gordon, the acting president of the NGFA, said in the CME’s release.

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