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In the late 1800s, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was completed, creating the only shipping link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system. As Chicago became a major trading hub, a group of businessmen formed an organization called the Chicago Board of Trade that would centralize the trading of wheat, corn, and other grains. To minimize the risk of fluctuating grain prices, farmers used the exchange to lock in a price for a promise to deliver the crop at a future date, and the futures contract was born. In 1898, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange opened to trade in perishables such as butter, eggs, and onions. Lambert tells the colorful history of these commodity markets, which were designed to hedge risk for farmers but became hotbeds for speculators, fast-deal makers, and shrewd manipulators. The chapters are organized chronologically by the commodities that were added to the pits, such as pork bellies, currencies, stock options, oil, and bonds. Lambert, a senior writer for Forbes magazine, keeps the story moving with a surprising litany of legendary traders you probably never heard of until now.--Siegfried, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

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Futures trading involves the buying and selling of contracts to deliver goods at a specified price and date. Forbes magazine writer Lambert tells the story of the mid-19th-century beginnings and evolution of Chicago's two futures exchanges. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) originated out of the cyclical shortage and abundance of eggs and other perishables, while the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) developed as a way for farmers and buyers to hedge against fluctuating grain prices. Both exchanges moved into new markets, such as pork bellies, cattle, and financial products, as opportunities presented themselves. For most of their existence, Lambert describes the exchanges as clublike with members running operations until 2002, when the CME became a public company and, shortly after, merged with the CBOT. Similarly, she writes that their traditional way of floor trading in pits with flailing arms and shouted orders largely has been replaced by computerized trading systems. Lambert includes numerous colorful anecdotes about the exchanges and their traders, also touching briefly on the 2008 financial crisis. VERDICT For readers interested in the Chicago exchanges' history, Lambert's book will be satisfying.-Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.