11.17.2011
By Terry Flanagan

Investors Turn to Futures

As volatility and global economic uncertainty continue to create unease in the minds of investors, many as turning to futures to hedge risk.

“Volatility is really what drives trading, in equities and in futures,” Neal Wolkoff, chief executive officer of ELX Futures, told Markets Media. “The greater the volatility of the underlying market, the greater the need to hedge price risk that comes from that. Volatility breeds hedging transactions. It has driven clients into futures. Volume has been good overall.”

ELX Futures recently announced that it had set quarterly records in 30-year and ultra-long U.S. Treasury bond futures. Its 30-year bond volume for the third quarter was at 1.2 million contracts, surpassing its previous record of just under 1 million during the second quarter. Ultra-long bond volume during the quarter more than doubled its previous high. Total volume during the first three quarters of the year exceeded 15 million contracts.

ELX Futures will look to continue the momentum with the inception of narrower ticks in 10-year Treasury contracts from half intervals to quarter intervals.

“This is the first time the 10-year contract will have a one-quarter tick instead of a one-half tick,” said Wolkoff. “It’s halving the minimum price fluctuation available elsewhere, and an opportunity for price improvement. Traders and clients understand the benefit of having a narrower tick in volatile markets. We expect to get a fair amount of transactions as a result.”

Futures exchanges such as CME Group and CBOE Futures also saw substantial upticks in trading volume in the third quarter, with gains of 27% and 29%, year-over-year, respectively.

Volatile markets are ultimately good for exchanges, as it usually brings about higher trading volumes. The most recent surge in volatility came in the wake of the MF Global collapse as well as the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the European debt crisis. CBOE’s Volatility Index, or VIX, has been at elevated levels since early August. Although briefly trading at the mid-20s, it is currently at about 34.

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