The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) is a commodity futures exchange owned and operated by CME Group of Chicago. NYMEX is located at One North End Avenue in the World Financial Center in the Battery Park City section of Manhattan, New York City. Additional offices are located in Boston, Washington, Atlanta, San Francisco, Dubai, London, and Tokyo.
The company’s two principal divisions are the New York Mercantile Exchange and Commodity Exchange, Inc (COMEX), once separately owned exchanges. NYMEX Holdings, Inc., the former parent company of the New York Mercantile Exchange and COMEX, became listed on the New York Stock Exchange on November 17, 2006, under the ticker symbol NMX. On March 17, 2008, Chicago based CME Group signed a definitive agreement to acquire NYMEX Holdings, Inc. for $11.2 billion in cash and stock and the takeover was completed in August 2008. Both NYMEX and COMEX now operate as designated contract markets (DCM) of the CME Group. The other two designated contract markets in the CME Group are the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.
The New York Mercantile Exchange handles billions of dollars’ worth of energy products, metals, and other commodities being bought and sold on the trading floor and the overnight electronic trading computer systems for future delivery. The prices quoted for transactions on the exchange are the basis for prices that people pay for various commodities throughout the world.
The floor of the NYMEX is regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an independent agency of the United States government. Each individual company that trades on the exchange must send its own independent brokers. Therefore, a few employees on the floor of the exchange represent a big corporation and the exchange employees only record the transactions and have nothing to do with the actual trade.
Although mostly electronic since 2006, the NYMEX maintains a small venue that still practices the open outcry trading system, in which traders employ shouting and complex hand gestures on the physical trading floor. A project to preserve the hand signals used at NYMEX has been published.
NYMEX held a virtual monopoly on “open market” oil futures trading (as opposed to the dark market or “over the counter” market). However in the early 2000s the electronically based exchanges started taking away the business of the open outcry markets like NYMEX. Enron’s online energy trading system was part of this trend. Jeff Sprecher’s IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE, was another example. ICE eventually began trading oil contracts that were extremely similar to NYMEX’s, taking away market share almost immediately.
The open outcry NYMEX pit traders had always been against electronic trading because it threatened their income and their lifestyle. The executives at NYMEX felt that electronic trading was the only way to keep the exchange competitive. NYMEX teamed up with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to use Globex in 2006. The trading pits emptied out as many traders quit. Banks, hedge funds, and huge oil companies stopped making telephone calls to the pits and started trading directly for themselves over screens.
In this period the NYMEX also worked on founding the Dubai Mercantile Exchange in the United Arab Emirates. This was chronicled by Ben Mezrich in his New York Times Best Selling book Rigged (book) which has been optioned for film adaptation by Summit Entertainment.
The final executive management of NYMEX decided to sell it off in pieces, take golden parachute buyouts, and leave. In 2006 NYMEX underwent an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The executives and exchange members owning seats on the exchange saw their net worth increase by millions of dollars in a few hours – many of the pit traders, who leased their seats instead of owning, did not. Other parts of NYMEX were sold to private equity investors and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The CME got ownership of the physical facilities and began scrubbing the NYMEX logo and name off of various artifacts and closed the NYMEX museum. NYMEX eventually became little more than a brand name used by CME. By 2011, NYMEX open outcry trading was relegated for the most part to a small number of people trading options.
In 2009 it was reported that holders of COMEX gold futures contracts experienced problems taking delivery of their metal. Along with chronic delivery delays, some investors received delivery of bars not matching their contract in serial number and weight. The delays could not be easily explained by slow warehouse movements, as the daily reports of these movements showed little activity. Because of these problems, there were concerns that COMEX did not have the gold inventory to back its existing warehouse receipts.
Making Millions Trading Futures: New York Merc Exchange Trading Floor (2007) video 33:05