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US exchanges retool for consolidation

The dinosaurs that were the old US futures exchanges are extinct. CBOT's and CME's changes, in response to upstart rivals such as Eurex US, may be paving the way to consolidation.

Eurex's fight fails to draw much blood

BERNIE DAN SITS back in his chair. He's in an ebullient mood, and with good reason. It's the first week of January and the Chicago Board of Trade, where Dan is CEO, has just released its traded contracts data for 2004, its third consecutive record-breaking year. "We traded nearly 600 million contracts last year, up from 225 million in 2001," he says. "Only Brazil's futures exchange has grown more quickly."

The last few years of high volatility have provided the perfect environment for futures and options. Even the drop in volatility last year did not hurt them. The global macroeconomic machinations and the continuing growth of hedge funds kept many derivatives exchanges' products very popular.

That the CBOT has been one of the chief beneficiaries of these markets, though, is more of a surprise. By the end of the 1990s it appeared to be an also-ran. It was behind in technology, appeared to outsiders to be overly insular and arrogant, and had finally lost its status as the world's largest derivatives exchange.

Dan's appointment seemed to outsiders merely a cosmetic change.

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