10 events that molded trading in the 20th century

“Ten years ago, a magazine such as this would not have been possible. In this past decade, futures trading has come of age.”

When Todd Lofton introduced Commodities magazine with these words in the Volume I, Number 1, February/March 1972 preview issue, he could hardly have imagined the changes just ahead for the trading world, beginning within months after the first issue. The timing was perfect for Lofton, a former Navy officer who had gotten into trading. Lofton couldn’t find any current publications covering futures and decided to start his own. 

In the 500 issues since then, Commodities became Futures magazine, featuring hundreds of sound trading concepts, opinions and ideas as the trading industry unfolded and evolved from one development to another, intertwined with each other as tends to happen over time. From all of this material, this is one person’s view of some of the key events, personalities and articles that highlight the progression of trading during the first half of those 500 issues—subjective choices, to be sure, but a starter list of events that shaped the trading industry.

Nixon closes the U.S. gold window

Although this event occurred on Aug. 15, 1971, several months before the first issue of Commodities was published, President Nixon’s national television appearance imposing a wage/price freeze and a 10% surcharge on imports also shut down access to U.S. gold (COMEX:GCQ14). Without the ability to convert U.S. dollars to gold, other nations could not peg their currencies to the gold standard, bringing an end to the Bretton Woods Agreement and several successor attempts to set fixed exchange rate systems. 

With the value of currencies able to float and the backing of a prominent economist like Milton Friedman, the currency futures market was born at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s (NASDAQ:CME) (CME) International Monetary Market after a failed attempt at the International Commerce Exchange in New York (not to be confused with today’s Intercontinental Exchange) in the early 1970s. IMM trading started slowly on May 16, 1975, but eventually took off as money became the ultimate commodity with a long-lasting effect on all other markets. 

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