The New York Mercantile Exchange wants to cash in on commodities prices. The Nymex, a commodities-based futures exchange, filed for a $250 million initial offering on Monday, setting the stage for it to join the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ( CME) and CBOT Holdings ( BOT) as a publicly traded enterprise. The decision to tap the public markets comes as contract volume on the Nymex surges. A flurry of trading of the company's most heavily traded contract, light sweet crude oil, continues as geopolitical uncertainty pushes oil prices to all-time highs. On Friday, oil futures hit a record high for a third straight day, closing at $77.03 a barrel. The Nymex is also one of the largest exchanges for precious metals trading, including gold. In 2005, gold futures contract was the most liquid precious metals futures contract in the world, with approximately 19.6 million contracts traded and cleared, according to the company's prospectus. Gold prices have increased more than 50% over the past year, and precious metals trading on the Nymex has shot up as hedge funds pile into the contract. The company did not say how many shares it plans to offer. Proceeds will go to general corporate purposes, capital expenditures and working capital, the prospectus said. The deal will also give a number of insiders a chance to sell shares. General Atlantic, which owns 10% of the company's common stock, is the largest single owner of the Nymex. General Atlantic is restricted to a so-called lock-up period and won't be allowed to sell all of its shares in the IPO. The Nymex will be joining a slew of other securities exchanges with newly minted public shares. The New York Stock Exchange ( NYX) went public in March when it merged with the electronic platform Archipelago. The Chicago Board of Trade went public last October, and the Nymex's biggest energy derivatives competitor, the Intercontinental Exchange ( ICE), went public in November. On Friday, Spanish stock-exchange operator Bolsas & Mercados Espanoles listed its shares on its own exchange. JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch will be the two lead banks helping with the offering. Banc of America Securities, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, and Sandler O'Neill will also help syndicate the deal.