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BNP is said to shut U.S. commodity desk

BNP Paribas SA is shuttering its U.S. commodities derivatives desk, according to people familiar with the matter, the second trading unit to be wound down within days as France's largest bank seeks to protect profitability.

The closing of the business, which had 16 people and traded energy, metals and some agricultural products, dovetails with an earlier decision by BNP to stop financing shale and oil sands projects. But the timing — days after Bloomberg reported the bank is said to be closing its proprietary trading arm Opera Trading Capital — suggests broader adjustments at the investment bank, analysts said.

"The bank seems to be adopting enhanced discipline on costs and profitability at its markets activities," said Jean-Pierre Lambert, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in London who has an outperform rating on BNP Paribas shares.

BNP declined to comment.

Separately, BNP Paribas lost $80 million in derivative trades linked to the U.S. stock benchmark late last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

Antoine Lours, the New York-based head of U.S. index trading, has yet to return to the bank from his Christmas vacation after positions he took on the S&P 500 index went awry, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private. The majority of the losses came over several days in the run-up to the holiday, the people said.

Lours didn't respond to a request for comment made through his LinkedIn account, and a colleague at his desk in New York said the trader wasn't in the office this week. Ilias Catsaros, a spokesman for BNP Paribas in New York, declined to comment.