Commodity investing has become increasing popular over the years as the exchange-traded world has opened this once elusive asset class. Still, one of the most effective ways to maintain exposure to your favorite hard asset remains through futures contracts.
For the average investor, futures are typically too complex; they can be extremely dangerous, hard to understand, and require a specified account just to trade them. As such, many turn to futures-based ETFs and ETNs to gain their desired positions. While these products can be sound investments, investing in the futures yourself remains the most direct and potentially most profitable way to make a play on the commodity space [see also The Ten Commandments of Commodity Investing].
When it comes to futures investing, however, many traders are unsure where to begin. Unlike equities, the most popular contracts are spread out over a handful of different exchanges, as opposed to two or three that completely dominate the market. Futures investors need to keep themselves educated on the various exchanges, including which contracts are traded where as well as the location of each exchange. Below, we outline six of the most popular commodity futures exchanges in the world to help investors better find the investments they are looking for. For more information on the active trading of commodity futures and other products, see our Commodity ETF and Futures Trading Center.
Top Commodity Exchanges
- Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME): A financial and commodity derivatives trading platform headquartered in Chicago. Originally founded in 1898 as the Chicago Butter and Egg Board, the CME has one of the largest options and futures line-up of any exchange in the world. The CME offers contracts of all kinds including agriculture, credit, economic events, equity index, FX, interest rates and other futures/options investments. The CME is owned and operated under the CME Group.
- Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT): Established in 1848, the CBOT ranks as the oldest futures/options trading exchange in the world. The exchange offers more than 50 different futures and option contracts for investors stretching across a number of asset classes. As of 2007, the CBOT operates as a subsidiary of the CME group.
- New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX): The NYMEX is the world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange, offering exposure to a wide variety of products. Commodity Exchange Inc. (COMEX) also operates as a division of the NYMEX and is best known for offering exposure to various metals contracts. The two divisions joined in late 2006, and were acquired by the CME Group in early 2008.
- London Metal Exchange (LME): Stationed in the United Kingdom, the LME is a major exchange that offers exposure to futures and options of a wide variety of base metals and other commodity products. Some of the metals traded include aluminum, copper, tin, nickel, zinc, and lead. Though founded in 1877, the exchange can trace its roots all the way back to 1571, when the Royal Exchange in London was opened, only trading copper at that time.
- Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE): The Intercontinental Exchange is a U.S.-based company that operates futures and over-the-counter contracts via internet marketplaces. The company was originally focused on energy contracts but has widened its scope by offering exposure to a number of commodities including cocoa, cotton, sugar, iron ore, natural gas and crude products. The platform is much more focused on just a select few commodities and may be a good fit for traders looking to single out just one or two.
- Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX): The MCX is a private commodity exchange based in Mumbai, India. The company was founded in 2003 and ranks as one of the top 10 commodity exchanges in the world. Traders can gain access to a number of the usual suspects like gold and silver, but also have the option to trade a number of commodities focused on the Indian economy like pepper, cashew kernel, yellow peas, and a number of other futures that would be difficult if not impossible to find within U.S. borders.
|CME||DJ-UBS Commodity Index, S&P-GSCI|
|CBOT||Corn, Soybeans, Wheat|
|NYMEX||Natural Gas, WTI, Brent|
|COMEX||Gold, Silver, Copper|
|LME||Aluminum, Steel, Copper|
|ICE||Sugar, Brent, WTI|
|MCX||Silver, Gold, Natural Gas|
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.