Merrill Lynch exits commodities business

by Emily Wilson
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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, U.S. — Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., a leading investment bank and brokerage, announced in mid-January plans to exit the agricultural futures market.

The bank said it would close its sales support, trading floor operations at the Chicago Board of Trade and its private client futures business. Although Merrill Lynch's commodity unit was just a small portion of the company's overall operations, it had maintained a presence in the C.B.O.T.'s grain markets, where it handled futures trading and options in corn, wheat, soybeans and other agricultural commodities for speculative and commercial clients.

Industry analysts said Merrill Lynch was not the first bank — and would not be the last — to leave the commodities business.