Before the trading day starts, as everyone arrives at the CME Group in downtown Chicago, there's a sense of pent up energy, like before a race. This morning there'd been some big overnight news and Virginia McGathey was waiting to see how the markets were going to react.
Everyone changes into trading jackets downstairs by the entry. Different jackets indicate different jobs and companies on the floor of the exchange. Virginia McGathey has designed her own jackets for her team. They're all pretty colorful. Her flame jacket seemed appropriate for the day ahead.
Before the trading starts it's pretty quiet. There are separate "pits" or trading areas for each commodity. Virginia McGathey primarily trades in the Wheat Options Pit, although she did cross over into the Corn Options and Wheat Futures pits during the day to execute other trades.
We were able to do a quick interview before things got busy.
As soon as the bell signaling the start of trading rang, things instantly went wild. Virginia stands at the center of the pit. The Wheat Options Pit still uses the open outcry system of hand signals and calls. The complexity of options trading can't easily translate to a computerized system, so open outcry still works better for this market. It's an efficient and trusted system, although it looks chaotic.
It's a drama. Even if you can't follow the exact sequence of events, emotions run high.
The trading floor of the CME Group has its own rhythms. One pit will suddenly burst into life, yelling and screaming, while another will go silent. Different bells signal different markets opening and closing. Everyone is completely absorbed. You have to stand out of the walkways or risk getting run down.
At the end of the day the place is a mess. It empties out fast. All that's left are a few exhausted traders and some clerks settling and recording the day's trades. The show is over.