Exchange Stocks Rally on Volatility in Markets

Shares of Nasdaq Inc. and other exchange operators have risen at least 2.2% this week.

Photo:

brendan mcdermid/Reuters

Updated Sept. 17, 2019 4:20 pm ET

There is one group benefiting from the pickup in market volatility this week: exchange operators. Shares of

CME Group
Inc.,


CME 3.73%

Intercontinental Exchange
Inc.,


ICE 1.49%

Nasdaq
Inc.,


NDAQ 3.48%

MarketAxess Holdings
Inc.


MKTX 2.43%

and

S&P Global
Inc.


SPGI 2.65%

each have climbed at least 2.4% so far this week and are all up by double-digit percentages in 2019. One possible reason for this week’s gains, some analysts say, is that the Intercontinental Exchange and CME both trade oil futures and have had a direct impact on their volumes from the attack on Saudi oil infrastructure over the weekend.

Analysts and investors also attribute the strong performance among exchange operators this year to large swings in the stock, bond and currency markets. Lower borrowing costs this summer have spurred a rise in trading volumes, the analysts said. Oppenheimer initiated coverage on several of the stocks with “outperform” ratings Monday. The firm said Intercontinental Exchange could serve as a hedge to investors’ portfolios amid a recent rise in volatility. “When there is an unexpected change in oil prices, airlines and [exploration-and-production] companies use futures contracts to lock in energy prices,” Oppenheimer analysts said in a research note. “When there is an unexpected change in interest rates, banks and corporations use interest-rate derivatives to hedge against adverse interest-rate movements.” ICE focuses on Brent, the global benchmark for crude oil, which accounts for two-thirds of all oil pricing, according to Oppenheimer. The firm estimated that ICE’s revenue from energy grew 7.6% from 2009 to 2018, compared with 2% for CME, which is focused on U.S. oil futures and has a more limited market size. The firm also said CME could benefit from the recent gyrations in oil prices and interest rates. Write to Jessica Menton at Jessica.Menton@wsj.com

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