NEW YORK — Merrill Lynch & Co. said Friday that it has eliminated 50 jobs in its commodities trading division.

The cuts cover a range of positions associated with futures and options, most of them in the United States and Canada. Joseph Cohen, a Merrill spokesman, said they are dictated by a shift toward conducting its commodity trading business electronically.

The layoffs were announced just days after Merrill reported a 21% decline in first-quarter profits from a year earlier, which it attributed to tough conditions in the capital markets.

Merrill pared its work force to 70,300 in the quarter, eliminating 1,700 positions.

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