Any managed futures trader will tell you that trading metals on the LME is much more difficult than other "futures" contracts. Structural differences make for a more challenging environment from monitoring and capital usage to transaction costs. The continuous forward contracts of the LME are just more difficult to trade than the focused discrete delivery dates of futures because market liquidity is spread over a wider set of dates. Even if liquidity is centered at a three month prompt, the liquidity on exit before expiration may be more difficult to find.
This liquidity difficulty may be offset by the greater flexibility in contract expirations at the LME versus a futures contract. Hence, hedgers may find the LME a more attractive alternative than the traditional futures contracts which have greater basis risk from the limited contracts expirations. Speculators, on the other hand, who place a premium on liquidity and consolidation of order flow will find futures contracts more appealing. Nevertheless, it always becomes an issue of networking. Pardon the language, but traders trade where others trade. However, for speculators, there always is a choice of just avoiding markets that are more costly and difficult to trade which hurts overall liquidity and development. Market design matters.
The gold market is especially crowded with alternative markets structures, in New York, Shanghai, and the host of OTC alternatives. Any gold contact has to overcome three structural issues: geography, (the market is moving east); clearing (the market is moving to centralized clearing and away from OTC), and liquidity (the market will always seek the highest liquidity place for trading). However, some strong trading backers, centralized clearing and the new regulatory regime may give LMEprecious a good chance for survival and a meaningful share of the gold trade.