Despite renewed interest in agriculture futures and options, trading volume at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange declined nearly 12% during March from a year earlier.

For the first quarter, an 81.1% increase in agricultural product volume helped the Board of Trade generate an 11.7% increase in overall volume. First quarter volume at the Mercantile exchange fell 11.9%.

At the Board of Trade, trading in all financial contracts fell 22.4% from March 1995 levels, to just over 13.5 million contracts. Volume in the exchange's most popular contract, futures on U.S. treasury bonds, fell by 2.4 million, or 25.2%, when compared with a year earlier, to just under 7.2 million contracts. Most other interest rate contracts had similar volume declines.

Overall volume at the exchange fell 11.7% from March 1995, to 18.4 million contracts.

Volume at the Mercantile exchange totaled 19.7 million contracts, an 11.6% decline from a year earlier. The exchange's volume numbers were 2.6 million contracts higher because it counts certain transactions that create or liquidate positions. These same transactions are not counted for volume numbers on the Board of Trade.

The Mercantile exchange's currency products registered the biggest trading drops. Volume in these contracts fell a combined 32.8%, or 1.3 million contract, led by 40% or more declines in German mark, Japanese yen, and Swiss franc products.

The volume drop in the Mercantile exchange's interest rate and equity products was less pronounced. The Eurodollar futures contract, the most heavily traded futures contract in the world, fell by 1.3% from a year earlier, to nearly 10.8 million.

Rising prices for corn, soybeans and other agricultural products helped the Board of Trade overcome part of the drop in its financial contracts. Trading in corn futures more than doubled the previous March's volume, and helped the exchange post an 81.1% rise in agricultural volume.

Agricultural volume at the Mercantile exchange fell by 12% from a year earlier.

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