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10 thoughts on “The Futures

  1. says:

    This is a captivating book providing a cohesive historical account of the futures markets in Chicago As someone who lives in Chicago and deals with futures markets each day it would not be reasonable for me to ask Emily Lambert for any Am I biased because she provided a hilariously accurate account of the founder of the firm I work for? Am I biased because she took the time to explain just how much liuor you get when you order a drink at Ceres Cafe? Am I biased because the tall brick cold storage warehouse in Fulton Market that she described in detail now houses one of my favorite restaurants? SomewhatThe truth that others seem to be wrestling with is that this is not a futures textbook I've come across uite a few futures textbooks They don't resemble this in format or in diction The back cover describes The Futures as a rich and dramatic history of commodities exchanges and that's exactly what it is It's a valuable fun and endearing book that aggregates a large portion of Chicago's history into barely two hundred pages Dare I say it should be on any Chicagoan's must read listEven since moving here I have seen the continued transformation of Fulton Market as the last wholesalers have been happily I might add bought out and replaced by restaurants social clubs and other establishments that are uickly transforming it into one of the hottest neighborhoods in America I guess this book helped validate my paying exorbitant rent but it also gave me a lot to think about It is at times a struggle to remain grounded in my appreciation for where I came from while simultaneously mixing with the bourgeois so I really appreciated the sense of admiration that Emily had for the pioneering laborers who made Chicago what it is todaySee this review and others on my blog

  2. says:

    This is a popular history of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange I especially enjoyed the first half of the book which told the story of how these markets grew up mostly organically from the buying and selling of agricultural commodities produced in Chicago's hinterland corn oats soybeans lard eggs butter and even onions In fact onion trading got so heated in the 1950s that the federal government had to shut it down The very concept of the futures contract came from these small at first trading clubs with just a few hundred members Once the futures contract was invented these contracts for real life farm goods commodities were soon abstracted into tradeable financial instruments thus creating the speculative futures market In this market something as prosaic as a contract for the delivery of a train car of soybeans on a certain date for a certain price could change ownership dozens of times before the actual physical beans arrived anywhere In the meantime a trading value of the contract would develop apart from its face value and would float up or down based on whether traders bet that the real time market price at the date of delivery would be higher or lower than the originally contracted price In the difference between these values the actual delivery value as compared to the trading value small fortunes could be uickly won or lost many times over by frantic sweaty tobacco smelling men wearing oddly colored jackets and gesticulating at each other in one of Chicago's famous trading pits These pits were actual physical pits crowded amphitheaters of theatrical deal making originally located in the Board of Trade building downtown and the Merc on Fulton Street In fact some of Lambert's best material is describing the people playing their frantic roles in these arenasThe parties to the first futures contracts included people who were directly connected to the physical product eg farmers hedging against low prices distributors and processors hedging against high prices But soon a group of traders developed who were pure creatures of finance who never laid eyes on an actual soybean and who only saw a porkbelly fried in strips on their breakfast plates And yet millions of dollars sloshed around at their impulses sometimes generating great value for whole economic sectors but other times ruining themselves along with farmers wholesalers and others Once it was established that money could be wrung out simply from trading contracts and not growing transporting or processing physical products the race was on to add and pits or markets in Chicago Once the traders had made markets out of all the plausible agricultural commodities they looked to find a way to create and then trade futures contracts on other goods like fuel oil And from there they made the leap of abstraction to create futures contract for purely financial instruments foreign currency mortgage bundles stock options and so on One strength of this book is the author's many many first hand interviews with people associated with the Chicago Board of Trade and the Merc or Mercantile Exchange going back to people who were active in the 1950s as well as interviews with people involved in similar smaller commodities exchanges in New York and Kansas City These valuable interviews are something like oral history that may have been lost otherwise This is a wealth of information however scholars may find her sources insufficiently documented to the standards of academic history One thing I think the book lacks is sufficient clear explanations of how exactly one makes money on all these types of trades or via the various financial firmsservices that surround trading like brokers and clearinghouses My example of a soybean contract above is if anything a bit detailed than the book offers in any one spot Such explanations become even necessary when the trading moves from commodities to pure abstractions like options later known as derivatives swaps and eurodollars If such explanations complete with numbers would break up the narrative flow maybe they could be put in an appendix? Understanding this idiosyncratic financial subculture made me want to understand the basic math and strategy behind it in addition to the history and personalities

  3. says:

    I don't know how to sugarcoat this so I'm just going to say it This book sucked The Futures was terrible If you want to learn about futures markets for the love of God do NOT read this book If you DO want to just read chapter after chapter describing the inside of old Chicago buildings and listing the names of individuals who at one point had a tangential connection with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange congratulations this is the book for youEvidence of how unpleasant this reading experience was I started this book on September 16th and didn't finish it until NOVEMBER It's only 240 pages for crying out loud It completely killed my momentum and probably cost me a good 3 4 books on the yearThe thing I still can't get over is that you could read this entire book and if you didn't know what a futures contract was prior to cracking it open you wouldn't be able to explain it by the end That's madness It completely side steps the mechanics of how the market works and instead I guess tries to focus on the human story? Except the human story is dull as dirt It felt like an oral history gone terribly wrongI read this because while I was interested in the history of the founding of the world's first futures market I also want to further delve into the intricacies of how futures markets work The Futures provides no such insights You'll learn watching Trading Places and it'll be a hell of a lot enjoyable to boot

  4. says:

    Fascinating read Loads of research and very well presented information in these pages Probably have to read again to take in of the concepts in hereeconomics is not my strong suit but this book gave the layperson ie me a good view into the history of the futures markets Crazy crazy stuff

  5. says:

    What most of the other reviewers miss is that this book is not intended to explain the uses or inner workings of the various futures and derivatives markets that developed in Chicago in the 20th century It's clear that Lambert was not attempting this at all Rather The Futures is a narrative history that fairly accurately and accessibly traces the evolution of the CBOT and Merc and explains the origins of the various markets and contracts that developed overtime My advice to the other reviewers that were disappointed that Lambert did not do a better job explaining the markets would be to pick up one of the numerous textbooks that Lambert references directly in the text or in her source section

  6. says:

    So I guess I know a little bit about futures markets than I did before I started reading this book But not as much as I should given that I just read a whole book about them This book is long on minutiae about the history of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade and short on explanations of how futures markets exactly work

  7. says:

    Interesting account of the Futures markets based in Chicago Provides compelling stories and historical origins of the world's biggest markets Provides insights into why these markets exist the way they do now as well as the key transformations they have undergone over the years Little focus on actual futures trading strategies and the technical characteristics of the instruments themselves

  8. says:

    A history of futures trading mostly in Chicago Lambert concentrates on the introduction of new types of contract such as cattle bonds and so forth

  9. says:

    Interesting historical perspective surrounding the futures market Definitely a good read for anyone interested in history or economics

  10. says:

    Nice book

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The Futures [PDF / EPUB] The Futures In The Futures Emily Lambert senior writer at Forbes magazine tells us the rich and dramatic history of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade which together comprised the original In The Futures Emily Lambert senior writer at Forbes magazine tells us the rich and dramatic history of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade which together comprised the original most bustling futures market in the world She details the emergence of The Futures business as a kind of meeting place for gamblers and farmers and its subseuent transformation into a sophisticated electronic market where contracts are traded at lightning fast speeds Lambert also details the disastrous effects of Wall Street's adoption of The Futures contract without the rules and close knit social bonds that had made trading it in Chicago work so well Ultimately Lambert argues that The Futures markets are the real free markets and that speculators far from being mere parasites can serve a vital economic and social function given the right architecture The traditional futures market she explains because of its written and cultural limits can serve as a useful example for how markets ought to work and become a tonic for our current financial ills .