In the mid-to-late 1990s, the U.S. stock market was on a 15-year secular bull market that started in 1982. By the time 1997 was ushered in, the S&P 500 Index easily surpassed the 1,000 level.
At that time, the multiplier for the standard pit-traded S&P 500 futures was 500, meaning the contract notional value exceeded $500,000. The performance bond margin requirement exceeded $25,000 and was therefore beyond the reach of most traders. As a result, CME decided to launch a smaller, bite- sized, more retail-friendly version of the S&P 500: the E-mini S&P 500.
Given that electronic trading had taken hold in most other exchanges around the globe and that CME Globex, CME’s electronic trading system, was gaining attention and growing volume, it was decided that the E-mini S&P 500 would trade exclusively via CME Globex. The product launched in September 1997 and the product was an instant success; trading over 7,000 contracts on its first day. Three years later, it was trading 80,000 a day, and today, it trades nearly 2,000,000 contracts a day.
In fact, the E-mini S&P 500 futures contract trades more dollar volume each day than all 7,000 ETFs listed around the world1. The liquidity in the contract is unparalleled and investors from the retail and active trader side, as well as pension funds and money managers, enjoy the many benefits of this contract.
Following the success of the E-mini S&P 500, CME has also launched E-mini versions of the Nasdaq 100, the S&P MidCap 400 and the Russell 2000 contracts. All of them, became successful and liquid contracts just like the S&P 500.
1 Exchange Traded Funds and E-mini Stock Index Futures by David Lerman page 133-137
Dave Lerman, a CME Group employee for 32 years, has played a key role in numerous product launches, including Bitcoin, the E-mini S&P 500, the Micro E-mini, and the E-mini Russell. He has traveled the globe giving seminars and workshops on trading and risk management, and is the author of Exchange Traded Funds and E-mini Stock Index Futures.
Prior to joining CME Group, Dave was a member at the CBOT. He was a senior Portfolio Manager at Zavanelli Portfolio Research, taught investment management at Harper College and has lectured at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management.