What is the CBOT?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was established in 1948. There are 3,600 CBOT members who trade more than 50 different options and futures contracts though open outcry and e-trading. The CBOT is the world’s oldest futures and options exchange.

The CBOT has been operating from 141 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago since 1930. The architects Holabird and Route designed the building. Measuring 184.4 meters (605 feet) tall, it is art deco in design and incorporates sculptural work by Alvin Meyer. On top of the building is a sculpture of Ceres, the Roman goddess of plants. This is in reference to CBOT’s heritage as an agricultural commodities market.

The sculpture of Ceres is faceless, as Meyer thought that the building would never be overtaken in height and no one would therefore see the face. The building was designated a Chicago landmark in 1977. Numerous other skyscrapers in Chicago’s loop district now surround the building.

For many years, the main method of trading was by open auction. This required the traders to meet face to face in the pit in order to buy and sell futures contracts. In 1994, CBOT launched its first electronic trading system, implemented to meet the needs of the growing global economy. The use of e-trading has become more prevalent and the exchange has upgraded its electronic systems several times.


The main aim of the CBOT is to trade futures and options on futures, either through electronic or auctions means. It provides liquid and transparent contract markets for its stockholders, members and customers, who use the CBOT for risk management, price discovery and investment purposes. The futures markets allow speculators around the world to interpret news, economic information and other data. Speculators use this information to reach decisions about price and invest if the price looks financially viable.

In its early days, the CBOT traded only in agricultural commodities such as wheat, oats, corn and soya beans. It has progressed significantly since then. In 2001, the CBOT launched a new trading category of 100% gold and silver futures contacts. The exchange's newest products include South American soybean futures and ethanol futures in a response to shifting trends in the agricultural global market.


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