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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

At Chicago Merc, you can bet on snowfall

By Dave Carpenter
Associated Press

CHICAGO First came temperature futures, then frost-day futures. Now futures involving how much snow falls at Logan Airport in Boston or New York's Central Park.

In the latest evidence that almost anything goes in the marketplace, meteorologically speaking, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said yesterday it will begin trading snowfall futures and options contracts later this month.

The world's largest derivatives exchange said the new product, which will trade electronically starting Feb. 26, should help cities manage risk associated with snow accumulation. Insurance companies, retailers and other businesses with a lot riding on the weather also can use the futures to hedge their risk.

"The impact of weather can influence regional and local markets, playing a critical role in the overall economy," said Rick Redding, the exchange's managing director of products and services. "CME weather futures provide the safety and soundness investors are seeking to manage their weather-related risk."

Here's how it will work.

Snowfall futures and options are geared to a snowfall index focusing initially on Boston and New York. The index will change based on official daily snowfall totals.

Investors can buy and sell contracts trading on a monthly basis from October through April. A trader makes money on a contract when the index rises after it is purchased and loses money when it falls.

It all may make little financial sense to a small retail investor, but the Merc is counting on it succeeding with large companies just as temperature-index or weather futures have since they were introduced in 1999. More than 889,000 weather contracts were traded last year and the pace is picking up in 2006, with 108,000 traded last month, the exchange said.