CHICAGO — The Chicago Mercantile Exchange overwhelmingly approved a plan Tuesday to create an electronic trading system allowing investors worldwide to buy and sell financial futures and options around the clock.
Exchange spokeswoman Julie Jacobs said 3,939 exchange members, or 88%, voted in favor of the new system and 526 voted against it.
"Everyone is very pleased, obviously," she said. Exchange officials and industry analysts had predicted members would ratify the proposal by a wide margin.
The system, dubbed PMT for Post (Pre) Market Trade, would involve a partnership between the nation's second-largest futures exchange and London-based Reuters Holdings PLC. Merc officials announced the plan Sept. 2, calling it a major step beyond current efforts to tap global markets.
Under the system, which could become operational in 18 months, traders would enter their buy and sell orders using computer terminals supplied by Reuters. The computer would search for a counter-order, execute the deal and inform the parties.
The system would operate only during the approximately 16 hours a day that the Merc's trading floor is closed. During regular trading hours, business would be conducted in the traditional "open-outcry" method, with traders meeting in the pits.
Exchange officials have said the open-outcry method is the most efficient way to trade futures and options contracts, and they have sought to allay fears that electronic trading will eventually replace face-to-face trading altogether.
Leo Melamed, chairman of the exchange's executive committee, said Tuesday that there was strong support for the plan among the owners of the Merc's 2,724 seats.
"Our members recognize that PMT preserves the open outcry system while advancing our role in international markets," Melamed said in a statement.
Exchange Chairman John F. Sandner expressed confidence that the members would approve the plan.
"PMT is a concept with virtually unlimited potential for the growth and success of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange," he said.