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Exchange puts the squeeze on oil dealers to boost electronic trades

The volume of trades on an electronic trading system shunned by brokers for over a year has surged after the International...

The volume of trades on an electronic trading system shunned by brokers for over a year has surged after the International Petroleum Exchange restricted the hours for "open outcry" trading.

In one day earlier this month 20% of trades in oil and natural gas futures contracts were made electronically - compared to an average of 5% since the ICE electronic trading system was launched just over a year ago.

Traders have the choice of using the Java-based electronic trading system, which integrates with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, or traditional open outcry trading.

A spokeswoman for the IPE said it had changed the hours in which traders could use open outcry to sell shares to encourage the use of the electronic trading system.

It has barred traders from using open outcry to sell contracts during the morning and early afternoon, but it stopped short of forcing traders to use the electronic trading system.

"It has been a conscious decision to encourage traders to use the electronic trading system," said the spokeswoman. "We have seen considerably higher volumes of trading done electronically."

The IPE, Europe's largest exchange for energy futures and options and the last open outcry pit in the City, handles more than £1.1bn of trades a day.

Until recently oil and gas traders had shunned the electronic trading system despite oil prices reaching a record high.

The IPE trading system was developed by the exchange's parent company Intercontinental Exchange. Advantages of the system include access to international markets, being able to automate the trading cycle - known as straight-through processing - and trading directly without a broker, said the IPE spokeswoman.

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