Commodity Exchanges - Can You Count Them All?

Chicago commodities exchange

The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT, http://www.cbot.com) for example trades a wide variety of commodity types. On the exchange, traders will find everything from corn, soybeans, wheat and oats to several metals contracts: 100 oz Gold, 5,000 oz silver and newer 'mini' contracts for both. Mini's are contracts in which the amount covered by a standard contract are smaller than the traditional amount, allowing for a lower initial investment and smaller price increments or 'ticks'.

The CBOT also offers an array of non-physical 'commodities' futures contracts. Government bonds futures contracts are traded: 30-year bonds, 10-year notes, 5-year swaps, and more. A swap is the combination of a cash trade and a forward - similar to futures. They're used primarily for hedging. The CBOT also trades a number of indexes, such as the Dow AIG Index (a commodity index), and the Big Dow (an index on stocks).

Also housed in Chicago, the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange, http://www.cme.com) trades commodities as it has for over a hundred years. Reflecting its long history, the exchange trades live and feeder cattle, hogs, pork bellies and others. Lumber, milk, butter and even fertilizer are traded here.

But the CME has other, more esoteric products. The exchange offers an E-mini S&P 500 contract to trade the Standard & Poor's 500 Index on stocks. If the NASDAQ is more your style, they offer the E-mini NASDAQ 100 that trades a futures contract on that popular index.

Even Eurodollar futures are traded here. But the most unlikely contract has to be the Weather derivative - a futures contract that speculates on weather around the globe during different seasons.

New York commodities exchange

NYMEX is the acronym for the New York Mercantile Exchange. (http://www.nymex.com/index.aspx) Among the oldest in the U.S., they offer commodity and futures trading on a wide variety of petroleum and metals products, each with a distinct exchange abbreviation. Brent and mini-crude (CL, WS), Natural Gas (NG), Gasoline (HU), Heating Oil (HO, BH), and others.

Gold (GC), Silver (SI), Copper (HG) and Aluminum (AL) are offered, too. Note that the commodity abbreviations do not match the common chemical element abbreviations. Futures contracts are listed second and have their own abbreviation.

Another major exchange housed in New York is the NYBOT (New York Board of Trade). New York's original futures exchange, it offers contracts on cocoa, coffee, sugar, FCOJ (frozen concentrate of orange juice), cotton and other agricultural products. It also trades non-physical items, such as currency pairs, the U.S. Dollar Index, the famed NYSE Composite and more. The NYBOT offers live price info and will even feed a Blackberry device.

But the U.S. has no monopoly on commodity and futures exchanges. One of the world's most active is in London: Liffe (http://www.liffe.com). Formerly known as the London Fox (London Futures and Options Exchange), it's now merged with euronext. The exchange trades cocoa, sugar, coffee, wheat, barley, potatoes and other agricultural products.

Not far away is the historic London Metal Exchange (http://www.lme.co.uk), one of the grandfathers of precious metals trading. Copper, lead, aluminum, and several others are traded here. The exchange even trades plastics.

Japan, too, has a major exchange, the Central Japan Commodity Exchange (C-COM, http://www.c-com.or.jp), based in Nagoya, Japan. Formed in 1996 from the merger of three other major exchanges, commodities range from  eggs to gasoline and kerosene to ferrous scrap.