Americans love the shopping convenience of supermarkets.So to capitalize quite literally on the success of retail multi-product marketplaces, the nation's stocks, options and commodity exchanges are rapidly moving toward just such a product mix to lure more investment and speculative dollars.
The beginning of exchange rivalry surfaced with the trading of stock options. With the creation of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the Securities and Exchange Commission found itself inundated with inquiries from other exchanges about that market.
Now the CBOE, American, Midwest, Philadelphia and Pacifie Stock Exchanges handle such trades. The giant New York Stock Exchange is waiting in the wings - and for SEC approval - before it joins in the fun. And the CBOE reportedly wants designation as a securities market in order to even up the race with NYSE and Amex.
This week's application by a new arem of the American Stock Exchange - to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for designation as a market in Government National Mortgage Association futures gave a hint of what the exchanges are planning next.
ACE President Nathan Most, who braved Monday's snowstorm to bring the application and rulebook to the CFTC here, said requests to trade Treasury bills and U.S. government securities futures would be made by the exchange this spring. These applications will bring ACE in direct competition with the powerful Chicago Board of Trade, which now is the only U.S. exchange trading money market futures.
"I can't help but stress what the Amex feels," Most said. "Financial instruments belong in New York - that's where the market participants are."
Next month, ACE intends to propose a spot or physical market in silver and gold bullion, which would ease the exchange's entry into domestic commodity options once the CFTC's proposed pilot program is approved.
The NYSE and CBOE have made it known that they'd like to reserve a spot in a domestic commodity options program, too, according to CFTC officials. Which is why ACE requested that its proposed regulations on such trades be kept confidential by the commission.
The proposed federal regulations on the pilot program require that an exchange trading commodity options on underlying futurea contracts also trade the futures contracts in the specified commodity. To trade options on the underlying physical commodity, such as gold, silver or coffee, the exchange must make a spot or physical market. ACE chose the latter route to avoid competition with the Comex and New York Mercantile Exchange.
The volume of transactions and the awesome size of the commodity markets has signaled the potential of commodity options and money market instruments to the financial community. U.S. commodity markets exceeded $1 trillion in volume last year, and the size of the London commodity options market - though troubled by bucket shop operators - was estimated at $200 million to $300 million by the CFTC.
A regulated, on-exchange options program is expected to attract and only speculators with eyes for possible windfall profits but hedgers - the growers, miners, processors of commodities ranging from sugar to silver - who want to limit their day-to-day business risks.
If the CFTC is permitted to begin the domestic options program, the impact on the markets could bring commodities - the stepchild of the financial world - into a true place of importance.