CME closed its pits March 11, 2020, as the rest of white-collar America was beginning to work primarily from home. The options and futures trading platform had migrated mainly to electronic trading for most of its products before the pandemic hit.
Subscribe to Crain’s for $3.25 a week
At the time of the closure more than a year ago, CME said it would evaluate whether to close the pits permanently “as more medical guidance on the coronavirus becomes available.” Today’s press release on the permanent closure was terse, and no explanation for the decision was provided.
“I guess I am not surprised,” said Dan Huber, an independent broker who spent 31 years on the trading floor. “Sad to see it end this way but we will all turn the page and move on. It was a good run.”
CME, one of the world’s largest derivatives exchange, had already closed floor trading for most futures contracts in Chicago and New York in 2015 as open outcry had fallen to just 1% of total volumes. The options pits in Chicago, with history stretching back 173 years, were the exchange’s last bastion for old-school commodities floor traders.
The Eurodollar options pit will be the only one to continue to operate. CME also said it plans to delist its full-size, floor-based S&P 500 futures and options contracts following the expiration of the September 2021 contracts on Sept. 17.
The 2009 documentary “Floored” captured the fading swagger of that world, where traders in brightly colored jackets shouting buy and sell orders could make or lose millions of dollars in a single day betting on everything from corn to pork bellies.
Stories from the pits are legendary, with tales of hiring 6 foot 6 inch traders so they’d have a physical advantage. Some people put lifts in their shoes.