CHICAGO -- The Chicago Mercantile Exchange today will allow live and feeder cattle futures contracts to trade in a wider range than normal, a reaction to heavy selling after news that a cow in Washington state apparently was infected with the brain-wasting mad cow disease.
Beef futures fell the market limit of 1.5 cents, or 150 points, in trading Wednesday amid heavy selling and a lack of buyers. The exchange was closed Thursday for Christmas.
The exchange's business conduct committee met in emergency session Wednesday and voted unanimously to expand the market limit to 3 cents when the market reopens today.
If the December 2003 or February 2004 contract month is either up or down by the 3 cent limit at the close of trading today, the limit will grow to 5 cents on Monday and Tuesday, the exchange said in a news release.
The limit will revert to 3 cents for Wednesday trading unless either contract month closes at the 5-cent limit Tuesday, in which case the limit will remain at 5 cents, the exchange said.
The cow in which evidence of mad cow disease was found was a Holstein dairy cow. Holstein cattle are not deliverable on the exchange's cattle contracts.
Founded more than a century ago, the exchange offers futures contracts and options on futures in stock indexes, foreign exchange, commodities and interest rates. It is the country's largest futures exchange but is surpassed internationally by Germany's all-electronic Eurex.