2021 Annual Futures and Options Volume Survey - Brazil, China and India drive trading to another record (2024)

For the fourth year in a row, global trading volume on derivatives exchanges set a record. The total number of futures and options traded in 2021 reached 62.58 billion contracts, up a whopping 33.7% from the previous year.

The growth in trading activity was concentrated in certain parts of the world, however. Much of the increase took place on exchanges in three countries: Brazil, China and India. Although the derivatives markets in these countries are very different, they all had one thing in common – strong demand from domestic market participants.

In China, for example, the main driver was rapid growth in commodity futures. In India, it was speculative trading of equity index options. And in Brazil, it was higher volume in both interest rate and equity index contracts.

Meanwhile, the derivatives industry's core markets in North America and Europe had relatively muted gains. Certain exchanges benefited from a surge of interest from retail investors, but trading was down in many of the flagship equity index and interest rate contracts used by institutional investors and corporate hedgers.

This contrast in growth trends has at least two implications for global brokers and trading firms. First, the rapidly growing markets in Brazil, China and India provide new opportunities for these firms to expand their businesses – but only if they can navigate the operational and regulatory complexities of doing business in these countries. The authorities in these countries are interested in encouraging more foreign participation, but there are many unique features of these markets that create barriers to entry.

Second, for those firms active in commodities trading, the rise of China's markets has changed the way these firms estimate supply and demand at the global level. China's futures exchanges have become important centers for price discovery in metals such as copper, aluminum and steel and in agricultural products such as cotton and sugar. Keeping an eye on price developments in Shanghai, Dalian and Zhengzhou is now standard business practice for commodity traders in other parts of the world.

Another major trend in 2021 was the rise of retail participation, especially in the trading of equity index and single stock options. These contracts offer a relatively simple way to speculate on price movements in equity markets. The increase in volatility since the onset of the pandemic, combined with the ease of access provided by online brokers, has sparked unprecedented enthusiasm for these contracts among individual traders. One effect of this trend was that in 2021, for the first time ever, there were more options traded on exchanges than futures.

Despite this surge in trading activity, the total number of outstanding contracts was almost unchanged. At the end of 2021, open interest across the industry stood at 1.076 billion contracts, up 2.6% from 1.048 billion contracts at year-end 2020.

FIA collects volume and open interest data from more than 80 exchanges around the world. The statistics on volume include all futures and options that are traded on or cleared through these exchanges. FIA measures volume and open interest in terms of the number of contracts that are transacted, rather than the value of the contracts. More statistics and tables are available in FIA's year-end ETD volume report. Those who are interested can download a full spreadsheet of FIA data.

Equities lead the way

The vast majority of 2021's growth in trading activity was in the equity category, which consists of futures and options based on equity indices, individual stocks and exchange-traded funds. This category was both the largest in terms of volume and the fastest growing. The total volume of equity contracts rose 46.7% to 41.64 billion in 2021, which was equivalent to roughly two-thirds of all global trading in futures and options.

2021 volume and open interest by category
CategoryJan-Dec 2021
Volume
Jan-Dec 2020
Volume
Volume
% Change
2021 December
Open Interest
2020 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
Equity41,643,207,30428,379,423,77946.70%749,095,409726,627,6373.10%
Currencies5,542,070,1724,512,602,97622.80%35,616,55532,726,5308.80%
Interest Rates4,577,345,7774,115,441,97211.20%172,810,694173,541,011-0.40%
Agriculture2,820,109,5522,570,657,3079.70%23,622,21422,988,6492.80%
Metals2,765,534,5032,398,531,60515.30%15,227,17214,268,6656.70%
Energy2,710,751,7673,151,107,672-14.00%61,400,61261,463,956-0.10%
Other2,525,665,0451,687,584,82649.70%17,984,45316,410,4639.60%
Total62,584,684,12046,815,350,13733.70%1,075,757,1091,048,026,9112.60%

Based on the number of contracts traded and/or cleared at 86 exchanges worldwide. Data© Futures Industry Association.

Within this category, one of the major trends has been the rapid growth in the trading of equity index futures and options over the last five years. As the chart below shows, more than 3 billion equity index futures and options were traded in the month of December. That was roughly six times the amount traded five years ago. And the majority of those contracts are traded on exchanges in the Asia-Pacific region.

Drilling down to the level of individual contracts, the importance of the Indian market becomes obvious. The top two contracts on the list of the top 20 equity index contracts in 2021 were both index options listed on the National Stock Exchange of India, and their trading volume in 2021 was roughly double the previous year. These contracts are supported by a large ecosystem of brokers and information providers that facilitate retail trading on a massive scale as well as a small number of foreign brokers and market making firms.

Another important market is Brazil's B3. Trading volume in its mini-sized futures on the Bovespa stock index jumped 58.3% last year to 4.62 billion contracts. That was more than 10 times the volume in the E-mini S&P 500 futures traded on CME, the second-most heavily traded equity index future in the world. Open interest rose even faster, up 69% to almost 690,000 contracts outstanding at year-end. However, the level of open interest was far below that of the E-mini S&P 500 futures, a sign that a higher percentage of the trading volume was short-term in nature.

The sharp increase in the trading of futures and options based on the Nasdaq 100 index, which is often used as a proxy for the technology sector of the US stock market, is also worth noting. The volume of trading in options on the QQQ exchange-traded fund, which tracks that index, jumped 39.2% to 349.1 million contracts. Additionally, the micro E-mini futures on the Nasdaq 100, which are one-tenth the size of regular E-mini contracts, jumped 33.9% to 239.1 million contracts. A major factor in the growth in trading was retail interest in technology companies in the Nasdaq 100 index such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook (now Meta), Tesla and Nvidia.

Top 20 equity index futures and options contracts, ranked by volume
RankContractJan-Dec 2021 VolumeVolume % Change2021 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
1Bank Nifty Index Options, National Stock Exchange of India8,536,738,06998.80%1,451,9588.40%
2CNX Nifty Index Options, National Stock Exchange of India5,497,680,235131.70%2,871,40416.10%
3Mini Ibovespa Index (WIN) Futures, B34,622,466,69658.30%689,79467.30%
4SPDR S&P 500 ETF Options *1,146,563,8561.60%16,578,125-11.00%
5S&P Sensex Index (BSX) Options, BSE614,527,7371686.70%470n/a
6Kospi 200 Options, Korea Exchange535,325,603-12.30%2,047,408-2.30%
7E-mini S&P 500 Futures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange403,640,014-19.60%2,300,981-9.30%
8Powershares QQQ ETF Options *349,161,30339.20%8,207,688-0.10%
9S&P 500 Index (SPX) Options, Cboe Options Exchange344,700,59910.10%14,638,00916.60%
10Micro E-mini Nasdaq 100 Index Futures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange239,115,57733.90%57,37513.00%
11Euro Stoxx 50 Index Options, Eurex227,211,474-23.00%29,206,474-4.10%
12Nikkei 225 Mini Futures, Osaka Exchange224,009,276-30.40%331,413-9.40%
13Euro Stoxx 50 Index Futures, Eurex223,870,918-36.40%2,677,946-8.20%
14Micro E-mini S&P 500 Index Futures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange218,602,634-3.60%95,95250.80%
15Taiex (TXO) Options, Taiwan Futures Exchange197,333,257-2.20%364,907-9.70%
16Kospi 200 Weekly Options, Korea Exchange187,965,56256.60%46,259225.10%
17iShares Russell 2000 ETF Options *173,036,06518.10%6,704,009-5.80%
18India 50 Index Options, India International Exchange166,689,177145.10%565743.30%
19RTS Index Futures, Moscow Exchange151,785,767-2.70%548,57239.80%
20E-mini Nasdaq 100 Futures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange140,406,331-4.30%208,988-5.40%

* Indicates traded on multiple U.S. options exchanges. Data© Futures Industry Association.

Trading volume only tells part of the story, however. Open interest, which measures the number of outstanding contracts, did not have the same rate of increase, and in many cases, actually declined over the course of 2021. This trend is best shown by re-ranking the top contracts by open interest as of the end of 2021. Out of the top 20 contracts by open interest, only six had an increase in open interest compared to the previous year. The other 14 were either down or roughly unchanged. This suggests that much of the increase in trading activity in the equity index sector was short-term in nature and did not carry over into an increase in the total size of market exposure held by market participants.

It is also worth noting that 16 out of the top 20 equity index contracts by open interest were listed on exchanges in Europe and the US. This includes eight ETF options that are listed on multiple US options exchanges and cleared at the OCC. These contracts tend to be favored by institutional investors as a way to hedge the risk or enhance the returns in their investment portfolios. In many cases, these investors hold their positions over a long period of time, with trading concentrated during the "roll" periods

One example is the banking sector index options listed on Eurex. The Euro Stoxx Banks index is comprised of European banks such as BNP Paribas, Banco Santander and ING. Trading volume in the options on this index was 56.3 million contracts in 2021, making it the 31st largest equity index derivative contract by volume. On the other hand, open interest at year-end was 9.05 million, the fourth-highest in the open interest ranking, which is a clear sign of strong involvement by institutional investors and risk managers.

Top 20 equity index futures and options contracts, ranked by open interest
RankContractJan-Dec 2021 VolumeVolume % Change2021 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
1Euro Stoxx 50 Index Options, Eurex227,211,474-23.00%29,206,474-4.10%
2SPDR S&P 500 ETF Options *1,146,563,8561.60%16,578,125-11.00%
3S&P 500 Index (SPX) Options, Cboe Options Exchange344,700,59910.10%14,638,00916.60%
4Euro Stoxx Banks Options, Eurex56,297,053-5.10%9,051,116-8.60%
5Powershares QQQ ETF Options *349,161,30339.20%8,207,688-0.10%
6iShares Russell 2000 ETF Options *173,036,06518.10%6,704,009-5.80%
7iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF Options *58,892,445-18.20%6,190,468-15.00%
8Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF Options *61,953,5403.80%4,232,243-8.00%
9CNX Nifty Index Options, National Stock Exchange of India5,497,680,235131.70%2,871,40416.10%
10Euro Stoxx 50 Index Futures, Eurex223,870,918-36.40%2,677,946-8.20%
11VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF Options *32,723,783-21.70%2,608,022-7.30%
12SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF Options *48,701,83390.50%2,435,578-9.10%
13iShares MSCI Brazil ETF Options *44,922,82527.40%2,401,9811.50%
14E-mini S&P 500 Futures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange403,640,014-19.60%2,300,981-9.30%
15Kospi 200 Options, Korea Exchange535,325,603-12.30%2,047,408-2.30%
16E-mini S&P 500 Options, Chicago Mercantile Exchange83,666,476-1.30%1,553,21842.10%
17Euro Stoxx Banks Futures, Eurex67,050,486-27.50%1,525,499-6.60%
18iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term ETN Options *67,627,915-7.80%1,469,974-19.60%
19Bank Nifty Index Options, National Stock Exchange of India8,536,738,06998.80%1,451,9588.40%
20Mini MSCI Emerging Markets Futures, ICE Futures U.S.37,935,284-17.60%1,086,156-10.90%

* Indicates traded on multiple U.S. options exchanges. Data© Futures Industry Association.

ESG and emissions: Two emerging growth areas

Within the institutional side of the business, there were two areas of notable growth—one in the equity index sector and one in the commodity sector.

2021 Annual Futures and Options Volume Survey - Brazil, China and India drive trading to another record (2)

The first was in the trading of ESG futures. These contracts are based on equity indices that have been constructed in line with Environmental, Social and Governance criteria. Although ESG futures make up only a tiny slice of the overall equity index market, the trading of these contracts is growing very rapidly. Total ESG futures volume jumped 84% to 4.8 million contracts in 2021. Open interest rose even faster, up 133% to just under 340,000 contracts. These contracts tend to be used by fund managers as a substitute for conventional equity index futures. Eurex is the leader in this sector of the market, with the largest share of the volume and open interest and the largest number of contracts.

The second was in futures and options based on emission allowances and offsets. Although this type of contract has been around for many years, the amount of trading activity increased substantially in 2021 as more attention turned to the problem of climate change. Emission allowances are increasingly valuable to corporations that are subject to limitations on their emissions, and they are also becoming popular with investors that want to add this asset class to their portfolios. This sector of the commodity derivatives markets also saw the introduction of several new contracts in 2021, including UK emission allowance futures traded on ICE Futures Europe and voluntary carbon offset futures traded on CME.

Emissions trading on futures exchanges
ExchangeJan-Dec 2021 Volume% Change2021 Dec
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
ICE (EU)15,732,44327%1,106,026-6%
ICE (US)3,476,68621%395,32220%
EEX723,02624%294,90819%
Nodal83,091357%18,157319%
CME47,149N/A9,432N/A
Nasdaq830-59%85-29%
Total20,063,22526%1,823,9304%

Note: ICE (EU) combines data for ICE Futures Europe and ICE Endex.Data© Futures Industry Association.

Rates trading in recovery

In the first quarter of 2020, trading of interest rate futures and options hit a record 1.54 billion contracts as market participants reacted to the economic impact of the pandemic and adjusted to the drastic downshift shift in the outlook for interest rates. For the rest of the year, however, trading volume contracted as central banks flooded the markets with liquidity.

Towards the end of 2021 a change in the outlook for interest rates triggered a resurgence of trading. However, the overall level of trading activity remained below the peak set in the first quarter of 2020.

Open interest has followed a similar pattern, though the fluctuations have not been as severe. The overall level of open interest in interest rate futures and options bottomed out in the third quarter of 2020 and then rebounded in the next three quarters. In fact, interest rate open interest in these products hit an all-time record of 190.3 million contracts in June 2021. Open interest ended the year at 172.8 million contracts, down slightly from December 2020.

Drilling down to individual contracts, the most actively traded contract in the rates sector was the the one-day interbank deposit futures listed on Brazil's B3. This contract benefited from a very sharp increase in Brazil's short term interest rates towards the end of the year. On the other hand, options on these futures fell out of favor, with volume down 40% and open interest down 21%.

Meanwhile, in the US trading of Eurodollar futures rose by almost 20% compared to the previous year. One key factor in that increase was the shift in US Federal Reserve monetary policy towards raising interest rates and unwinding its purchases of bonds. This led to increased interest in the more distant contract months, especially those three or four years out. A similar trend boosted trading in mid-curve options on Eurodollar futures, which provide market participants with a way to take a view on where interest rates will be two or three years down the road. Volume in these options almost tripled compared to 2020, and open interest was up 70% to 10.9 million contracts.

Another important trend in 2021 was the transition out of Libor-based interest rate futures. In the UK, ICE Futures Europe successfully completed the transition out of the short sterling contract, with open interest ending the year at zero, and the futures on SONIA are now the primary short-term interest rate contract in the sterling market. In the US, the trading of SOFR futures picked up over the course of 2021, especially in the last few months of the year, but as of year-end the trading volume was still less than a quarter of the trading volume in Eurodollar futures.

Turning to the government bond contracts, volume in the 10-year US Treasury futures rose by nearly 16% over 2020 and open interest rose by almost 21%. The primary reason for this jump in trading activity was the market's response to the shift in Fed policy in the final months of the year. Expectations of higher interest rates, combined with concerns about inflation, sparked greater interest in using these contracts to hedge interest rate risk and adjust interest rate exposures in investment portfolios.

Top 20 interest rate futures and options contracts
RankContractJan-Dec 2021 VolumeVolume % Change2021 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
1One-Day Interbank Deposit (DI1) Futures, B3654,265,23826.90%28,014,8132.40%
2Eurodollar Futures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange610,431,07819.70%11,253,24223.00%
310 Year Treasury Note Futures, Chicago Board of Trade469,746,62415.70%3,893,70420.60%
45 Year Treasury Note Futures, Chicago Board of Trade281,860,84015.10%3,762,25514.30%
5Eurodollar Mid-Curve Options, Chicago Mercantile Exchange202,913,484145.30%10,900,37769.60%
6Euro-Bund Futures, Eurex202,679,07716.20%1,243,91511.50%
73 Month Euribor Futures, ICE Futures Europe186,747,3047.10%4,014,58028.80%
810 Year Treasury Note Options, Chicago Board of Trade159,684,86925.60%2,103,306-2.50%
9Average One-Day Interbank Deposit Rate Index (IDI) Options, B3142,423,687-39.80%43,590,071-21.10%
103 Month Sterling Futures, ICE Futures Europe 1134,249,188-16.60%0-100.00%
11Euro-Bobl Futures, Eurex124,722,35817.00%1,364,83542.20%
122 Year Treasury Note Futures, Chicago Board of Trade115,497,784-10.40%1,960,4302.00%
1330 Year Treasury Bond Futures, Chicago Board of Trade113,446,87718.60%1,199,0373.20%
14Ultra 10 Year Treasury Note Futures, Chicago Board of Trade93,791,00845.20%1,368,76536.30%
15Euro-Schatz Futures, Eurex85,564,863-9.60%1,254,9722.30%
16Long Gilt Futures, ICE Futures Europe73,796,20520.80%781,59267.20%
17Eurodollar Options, Chicago Mercantile Exchange64,034,656-65.40%18,616,81410.50%
18Iboxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF Options *62,365,461-5.80%5,531,60719.10%
1910 Year Treasury Bond Futures, ASX 2460,125,766-2.20%1,098,383-21.60%
20Ultra Treasury Bond Futures, Chicago Board of Trade57,759,79710.20%1,244,57619.20%

* Indicates traded on multiple U.S. options exchanges. Data© Futures Industry Association.

Trends in commodities

At the global level, the volume of commodity futures and options trading rose rapidly during 2019 but leveled off in 2020 and 2021. Open interest remained roughly unchanged throughout.

Beneath this placid surface, however, trading volume was affected by several crosscurrents, with certain markets growing very rapidly and others quite the opposite.

Starting with the energy sector and looking at just the top 20 contracts by volume, three trends emerge. First, at the top of the list is the Brent crude oil futures traded on the Moscow Exchange. Although this contract had higher volume than any other energy contract in the world, it is a very small contract in terms of size. The contract is based on just 10 barrels of oil, making it 100 times smaller than the Brent futures traded on ICE and CME. In effect, it is a micro contract, easily accessible to individual traders but of limited interest to commodity trading firms or corporate hedgers.

The second most actively traded contract was the fuel oil futures listed on the Shanghai Futures Exchange. This contract is essentially a mini contract; it is based on 10 metric tons of oil, making it 10 times smaller than the comparable international contract, the gas oil contract at ICE Futures Europe.

Both contracts suffered from steep declines in trading volume in 2021, which offset gains in other parts of the energy market and depressed the overall level of trading activity in energy. Both contracts also have relatively low open interest, which highlights the speculative nature of trading in these contracts.

In contrast, the TTF gas futures had explosive growth in trading volume, and the open interest in this contract, although unchanged on the year, was extremely high compared to the rest of the energy sector. This contract is traded on ICE Endex, the Amsterdam-based futures exchange that is part of the Intercontinental Exchange group of companies. The contract has steadily gained in popularity among energy producers and trading companies because of its value as a benchmark for natural gas prices in Europe. In addition, with the US becoming a major exporter of natural gas, this contract has taken on additional importance for companies involved in the transport of LNG from the US to Europe and Asia. Total volume hit 41.6 million contracts in 2021, up 52% compared to 2020. Open interest at year-end was 1.7 million contracts, almost as large as the major oil contracts and much larger than its US counterpart, the Henry Hub natural gas futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Top 20 energy futures and options contracts
RankContractJan-Dec 2021 VolumeVolume % Change2021 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
1Brent Oil Futures, Moscow Exchange579,590,791-22.00%929,796-12.40%
2Fuel Oil Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange276,993,809-42.00%493,51711.80%
3WTI Light Sweet Crude Oil (CL) Futures, New York Mercantile Exchange248,314,481-9.40%1,866,914-13.40%
4Brent Crude Oil Futures, ICE Futures Europe243,666,3535.10%2,113,433-13.90%
5Bitumen Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange140,463,222-31.40%678,7552.60%
6Henry Hub Natural Gas (NG) Futures, New York Mercantile Exchange97,588,795-19.20%1,108,463-5.20%
7Thermal Coal (ZC) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange84,236,07337.70%33,534-85.40%
8Gas Oil Futures, ICE Futures Europe82,713,016-2.10%634,545-30.70%
9Coke Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange59,132,9782.90%32,480-84.60%
10Hard Coking Coal Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange58,305,922120.60%48,363-62.50%
11WTI Light Sweet Crude Oil Futures, ICE Futures Europe51,721,5973.20%428,582-9.10%
12RBOB Gasoline Physical (RB) Futures, New York Mercantile Exchange47,837,9982.90%294,317-29.00%
13Medium Sour Crude Oil Futures, Shanghai International Energy Exchange42,645,1802.50%67,512-20.30%
14Dutch TTF Gas Futures, ICE Endex41,607,96852.30%1,713,918-1.40%
15Natural Gas Futures, Multi Commodity Exchange of India40,032,148-13.20%13,48257.30%
16NY Harbor ULSD (HO) Futures, New York Mercantile Exchange38,711,497-12.00%303,334-16.40%
17Heating Oil Futures, ICE Futures Europe37,304,7453.60%31,6172.00%
18LiquefiedPetroleumGas Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange 135,060,253-27.30%148,961128.40%

Turning to the agricultural sector, the ranking of the top 20 contracts by volume confirms the importance of the Chinese exchanges. Fifteen out of the top 20 are listed on one of the Chinese exchanges, and most of the growth in this sector is on those exchanges. Although China's agricultural futures contracts tend to be smaller than their US counterparts in terms of the contract size, the scale of the trading volume is putting them on the radar of traders in the West in terms of price discovery. And in some areas, there is no counterpart in Western markets. For example, futures on wood pulp, a key ingredient for paper manufacturing, were introduced several times on Western exchanges but never succeeded until the Shanghai Futures Exchange listed wood pulp futures in 2018. Last year the volume in that contract reached 119 million contracts, up 247% from the previous year, and it has become a key source of price discovery for the global market in pulp and paper.

Top 20 agricultural futures and options contracts
RankContractJan-Dec 2021 VolumeVolume % Change2021 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
1Soybean Meal Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange360,388,1720.30%2,214,455-3.90%
2Rapeseed Meal (RM) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange268,927,21068.20%596,92624.60%
3Soybean Oil Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange229,383,50232.50%802,21636.60%
4RBD Palm Olein Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange226,614,036-28.10%608,15446.10%
5Corn Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange189,287,1136.50%1,464,172-5.90%
6Natural Rubber Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange121,600,87720.50%312,82511.70%
7Woodpulp Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange119,222,581247.00%383,52932.70%
8White Sugar (SR) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange116,457,963-6.50%538,771-3.60%
9Cotton No. 1 (CF) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange113,523,6324.80%573,599-9.80%
10Rapeseed Oil (OI) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange112,755,1766.90%258,11959.90%
11Apple (AP) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange105,492,73967.40%232,728-29.30%
12Corn Futures, Chicago Board of Trade86,901,950-3.20%1,512,771-13.60%
13Egg Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange59,397,983-55.00%238,767-28.40%
14Corn Starch Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange56,625,060100.10%244,39440.10%
15Soybean Futures, Chicago Board of Trade53,324,458-12.80%631,627-29.00%
16No. 1 Soybean Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange49,558,416-16.60%247,683130.40%
17Soybean Meal Options, Dalian Commodity Exchange37,992,81426.10%452,71317.50%
18Soybean Oil Futures, Chicago Board of Trade32,675,376-0.90%372,571-20.60%
19Corn Options, Chicago Board of Trade31,648,26829.70%1,045,629-23.30%
20Sugar #11 Futures, ICE Futures U.S.31,002,757-22.40%867,292-18.70%

Last but not least, the metals sector. Here again, the Chinese exchanges have a big role. Five of the top 10 contracts on the list of the top 20 contracts by volume are related to the steel industry in China. These contracts include not only finished products such as rebar and coil but also raw materials for the steel-making process such as iron ore, ferro silicon and silicon manganese.

Turning to the London Metal Exchange, the most important center for metals trading at the global level, metal producers and other industrial users reduced their positions in 2021. Year-end open interest was down in aluminium and copper, LME's two most heavily traded contracts, by 21% and 34%, respectively, compared to the previous year.

Top 20 metals futures and options contracts
RankContractJan-Dec 2021 VolumeVolume % Change2021 December
Open Interest
Open Interest
% Change
1Steel Rebar Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange655,986,71079.20%2,553,29062.10%
2Silver Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange231,457,606-35.20%666,393-7.80%
3Hot Rolled Coil Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange220,715,917168.00%1,015,80352.60%
4Iron Ore Futures, Dalian Commodity Exchange174,412,025-38.70%1,074,07877.00%
5Nickel Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange172,165,580-4.20%296,290-5.00%
6Aluminum Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange131,457,870148.70%498,11654.80%
7Ferrosilicon (SF) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange95,241,196203.90%128,42627.60%
8Gold Futures, Borsa Istanbul93,557,193-32.00%656,618-62.10%
9Silicon Manganese (SM) Futures, Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange80,496,12677.70%161,9377.70%
10Zinc Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange69,341,25514.90%210,29313.80%
11Refined Silver Futures, Moscow Exchange67,378,3420.50%390,936-0.90%
12Copper Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange64,107,15512.10%332,1805.50%
13Gold (GC) Futures, Commodity Exchange (COMEX)58,464,997-25.20%512,591-8.50%
14Aluminium Futures, London Metal Exchange57,670,339-7.00%730,421-21.30%
15Gold Futures, Moscow Exchange48,466,08547.60%195,85221.00%
16Silver Micro Futures, Multi Commodity Exchange of India47,357,929-1.30%115,451180.50%
17Gold Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange45,412,161-13.30%177,528-5.50%
18Stainless Steel Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange40,468,072273.60%113,441-33.90%
19Copper Grade A Futures, London Metal Exchange29,691,402-8.90%296,274-21.90%
20Tin Futures, Shanghai Futures Exchange27,012,409102.90%77,18047.00%

The full spreadsheet of FIA data is available here.

I am a seasoned financial analyst with expertise in derivatives trading and market analysis. Over the years, I have closely monitored global trading volumes, market trends, and the dynamics of various derivatives products. My insights stem from years of experience in financial research, analyzing market data, and staying abreast of developments in the derivatives industry.

Now, let's delve into the concepts used in the provided article:

  1. Derivatives Trading Volume: The article discusses the record-breaking global trading volume on derivatives exchanges, which reached 62.58 billion contracts in 2021, up by 33.7% from the previous year. This indicates a significant surge in trading activity in the derivatives market worldwide.

  2. Geographical Concentration of Trading: Much of the increase in trading activity occurred in exchanges in Brazil, China, and India, driven by strong demand from domestic market participants. Each of these countries experienced growth in different segments of the derivatives market, such as commodity futures in China, equity index options in India, and interest rate and equity index contracts in Brazil.

  3. Implications for Global Brokers and Firms: The growth in these markets presents new opportunities for global brokers and trading firms to expand their businesses. However, navigating operational and regulatory complexities poses challenges. Authorities in these countries aim to encourage more foreign participation, but unique market features create barriers to entry.

  4. Retail Participation and Speculative Trading: The article highlights the rise in retail participation, particularly in trading equity index and single-stock options. Increased volatility amid the pandemic, coupled with easy access provided by online brokers, fueled enthusiasm among individual traders for these contracts.

  5. Equity Index Trading: The majority of the growth in trading activity was in the equity category, including futures and options based on equity indices, individual stocks, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

  6. Interest Rate Trading: The article discusses the fluctuations in interest rate trading, driven by changes in central bank policies and economic outlooks. It highlights the resurgence of trading activity towards the end of 2021, driven by shifts in interest rate expectations.

  7. Commodities Trading: While the volume of commodity futures and options trading leveled off in 2020 and 2021, there were significant fluctuations within specific markets. The article discusses trends in energy, agriculture, and metals trading, highlighting both growth and decline in trading volumes across different commodities and exchanges.

  8. Environmental and Emissions Trading: The article touches upon the emerging growth areas of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) futures and options, as well as emissions trading. These sectors saw increased trading activity in 2021 amid growing concerns about climate change and environmental sustainability.

These concepts collectively illustrate the diverse landscape of derivatives trading, encompassing various asset classes, geographical regions, and market participants.

2021 Annual Futures and Options Volume Survey - Brazil, China and India drive trading to another record (2024)
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