commodity market, organized traders' exchange in which standardized, graded products are bought and sold. Worldwide, there are more than 20 major commodity exchanges and many smaller ones that trade commodities, ranging from grains and beans, coffee, tea, and cocoa, and cotton and wool to precious and industrial metals, oil, electricity, and plastics. Most trading is done in futures contracts, that is, agreements to deliver goods at a set time in the future for a price established at the time of the agreement. Futures trading allows both hedging to protect against serious losses in a declining market and speculation for gain in a rising market. For example, a seller may sign a contract agreeing to deliver grain in two months at a set price. If the grain market declines at the end of two months, the seller will still get the higher price quoted in the futures contract. If the market rises, however, speculators buying grain stand to profit by paying the lower contract price for the grain and reselling it at the higher market price. Spot contracts, a less widely used form of trading, call for immediate delivery of a specified commodity and are often used to obtain the goods necessary to fulfill a futures contract. An independent U.S. regulatory agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was established in 1974 to regulate commodity markets. In 1982, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange introduced a futures contract for Standard & Poor's 500 U.S. companies that allows investors to speculate on the future prices of those stocks. Trading of S&P 500 and other financial futures has broken down some of the barriers that once separated stock, bond, and commodity markets and made it easier for investors to hedge their stock investments. Critics charge that the futures trading at the commodity markets in Chicago has made stock prices more volatile.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Money, Banking, and Investment