In finance, a futures contract (more colloquially, futures) is a standardized forward contract, a legal agreement to buy or sell something at a predetermined price at a specified time in the future, between parties not known to each other. The asset transacted is usually a commodity or financial instrument. The predetermined price the parties agree to buy and sell the asset for is known as the forward price. The specified time in the future—which is when delivery and payment occur—is known as the delivery date. Because it is a function of an underlying asset, a futures contract is a derivative product.
Finance is a field that is concerned with the allocation (investment) of assets and liabilities over space and time, often under conditions of risk or uncertainty. Finance can also be defined as the art of money management. Participants in the market aim to price assets based on their risk level, fundamental value, and their expected rate of return. Finance can be split into three sub-categories: public finance, corporate finance and personal finance.
In finance, a forward contract or simply a forward is a non-standardized contract between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a specified future time at a price agreed on at the time of conclusion of the contract, making it a type of derivative instrument. The party agreeing to buy the underlying asset in the future assumes a long position, and the party agreeing to sell the asset in the future assumes a short position. The price agreed upon is called the delivery price, which is equal to the forward price at the time the contract is entered into.
In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned by the business. Anything tangible or intangible that can be owned or controlled to produce value and that is held by a company to produce positive economic value is an asset. Simply stated, assets represent value of ownership that can be converted into cash. The balance sheet of a firm records the monetary value of the assets owned by that firm. It covers money and other valuables belonging to an individual or to a business.
Contracts are negotiated at futures exchanges, which act as a marketplace between buyers and sellers. The buyer of a contract is said to be long position holder, and the selling party is said to be short position holder.As both parties risk their counter-party walking away if the price goes against them, the contract may involve both parties lodging a margin of the value of the contract with a mutually trusted third party. For example, in gold futures trading, the margin varies between 2% and 20% depending on the volatility of the spot market.
A futures exchange or futures market is a central financial exchange where people can trade standardized futures contracts; that is, a contract to buy specific quantities of a commodity or financial instrument at a specified price with delivery set at a specified time in the future. These types of contracts fall into the category of derivatives. The opposite of the futures market is the spots market, where trades will occur immediately after a transaction agreement has been made, rather than at a predetermined time in the future. Futures instruments are priced according to the movement of the underlying asset. The aforementioned category is named "derivatives" because the value of these instruments are derived from another asset class.
In finance, a long position in a financial instrument means the holder of the position owns a positive amount of the instrument. The holder of the position has the expectation that the financial instrument will increase in value. This is known as a bullish position. It is contrasted with going short, also called a bearish position.
In finance, a short sale is the assumption of a legal obligation to deliver to a buyer a financial asset that the seller does not own.
The first futures contracts were negotiated for agricultural commodities, and later futures contracts were negotiated for natural resources such as oil. Financial futures were introduced in 1972, and in recent decades, currency futures, interest rate futures and stock market index futures have played an increasingly large role in the overall futures markets. Even organ futures have been proposed to increase the supply of much-needed transplant organs.
A currency future, also known as an FX future or a foreign exchange future, is a futures contract to exchange one currency for another at a specified date in the future at a price that is fixed on the purchase date; see Foreign exchange derivative. Typically, one of the currencies is the US dollar. The price of a future is then in terms of US dollars per unit of other currency. This can be different from the standard way of quoting in the spot foreign exchange markets. The trade unit of each contract is then a certain amount of other currency, for instance €125,000. Most contracts have physical delivery, so for those held at the end of the last trading day, actual payments are made in each currency. However, most contracts are closed out before that. Investors can close out the contract at any time prior to the contract's delivery date.
An interest rate future is a financial derivative with an interest-bearing instrument as the underlying asset. It is a particular type of interest rate derivative.
In finance, a stock market index future is a cash-settled futures contract on the value of a particular stock market index, such as the S&P 500. The turnover for the global market in exchange-traded equity index futures is notionally valued, for 2008, by the Bank for International Settlements at USD 130 trillion.
The original use of futures contracts was to mitigate the risk of price or exchange rate movements by allowing parties to fix prices or rates in advance for future transactions. This could be advantageous when (for example) a party expects to receive payment in foreign currency in the future, and wishes to guard against an unfavorable movement of the currency in the interval before payment is received.
However, futures contracts also offer opportunities for speculation in that a trader who predicts that the price of an asset will move in a particular direction can contract to buy or sell it in the future at a price which (if the prediction is correct) will yield a profit.
Speculation is the purchase of an asset with the hope that it will become more valuable in the near future. In finance, speculation is also the practice of engaging in risky financial transactions in an attempt to profit from short term fluctuations in the market value of a tradable financial instrument—rather than attempting to profit from the underlying financial attributes embodied in the instrument such as capital gains, dividends, or interest.
The Dutch pioneered several financial instruments and helped lay the foundations of the modern financial system.In Europe, formal futures markets appeared in the Dutch Republic during the 17th century. Among the most notable of these early futures contracts were the tulip futures that developed during the height of the Dutch Tulipmania in 1636. The Dōjima Rice Exchange, first established in 1697 in Osaka, is considered by some to be the first futures exchange market, to meet the needs of samurai who—being paid in rice, and after a series of bad harvests—needed a stable conversion to coin.
The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.
Tulips (Tulipa) form a genus of spring-blooming perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes. The flowers are usually large, showy and brightly coloured, generally red, pink, yellow, or white. They often have a different coloured blotch at the base of the tepals, internally. Because of a degree of variability within the populations, and a long history of cultivation, classification has been complex and controversial. The tulip is a member of the lily family, Liliaceae, along with 14 other genera, where it is most closely related to Amana, Erythronium and Gagea in the tribe Lilieae. There are about 75 species, and these are divided among four subgenera. The name "tulip" is thought to be derived from a Persian word for turban, which it may have been thought to resemble. Tulips originally were found in a band stretching from Southern Europe to Central Asia, but since the seventeenth century have become widely naturalised and cultivated. In their natural state they are adapted to steppes and mountainous areas with temperate climates. Flowering in the spring, they become dormant in the summer once the flowers and leaves die back, emerging above ground as a shoot from the underground bulb in early spring.
The Dōjima Rice Exchange, located in Osaka, was the center of Japan's system of rice brokers, which developed independently and privately in the Edo period and would be seen as the forerunners to a modern banking system. It was first established in 1697, officially sanctioned, sponsored and organized by the shogunate in 1773, reorganized in 1868, and dissolved entirely in 1939, being absorbed into the Government Rice Agency (日本米穀株式会社).
The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) listed the first-ever standardized 'exchange traded' forward contracts in 1864, which were called futures contracts. This contract was based on grain trading, and started a trend that saw contracts created on a number of different commodities as well as a number of futures exchanges set up in countries around the world.By 1875 cotton futures were being traded in Bombay in India and within a few years this had expanded to futures on edible oilseeds complex, raw jute and jute goods and bullion.
The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), established on April 3, 1848, is one of the world's oldest futures and options exchanges. On July 12, 2007, the CBOT merged with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) to form CME Group. CBOT and three other exchanges now operate as designated contract markets (DCM) of the CME Group.
A grain is a small, hard, dry seed, with or without an attached hull or fruit layer, harvested for human or animal consumption. A grain crop is a grain-producing plant. The two main types of commercial grain crops are cereals and legumes.
In economics, a commodity is an economic good or service that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them.
The 1972 creation of the International Monetary Market (IMM), the world's first financial futures exchange, launched currency futures. In 1976, the IMM added interest rate futures on US treasury bills, and in 1982 they added stock market index futures.
Although futures contracts are oriented towards a future time point, their main purpose is to mitigate the risk of default by either party in the intervening period. In this vein, the futures exchange requires both parties to put up initial cash, or a performance bond, known as the margin. Margins, sometimes set as a percentage of the value of the futures contract, must be maintained throughout the life of the contract to guarantee the agreement, as over this time the price of the contract can vary as a function of supply and demand, causing one side of the exchange to lose money at the expense of the other.
To mitigate the risk of default, the product is marked to market on a daily basis where the difference between the initial agreed-upon price and the actual daily futures price is re-evaluated daily. This is sometimes known as the variation margin, where the futures exchange will draw money out of the losing party's margin account and put it into that of the other party, ensuring the correct loss or profit is reflected daily.
If the margin account goes below a certain value set by the exchange, then a margin call is made and the account owner must replenish the margin account. This process is known as marking to market. Thus on the delivery date, the amount exchanged is not the specified price on the contract but the spot value (since any gain or loss has already been previously settled by marking to market). Upon marketing, the strike price is often reached and creates lots of income for the "caller."
To minimize credit risk to the exchange, traders must post a margin or a performance bond, typically 5%-15% of the contract's value. Unlike use of the term margin in equities, this performance bond is not a partial payment used to purchase a security, but simply a good-faith deposit held to cover the day-to-day obligations of maintaining the position.
To minimize counterparty risk to traders, trades executed on regulated futures exchanges are guaranteed by a clearing house. The clearing house becomes the buyer to each seller, and the seller to each buyer, so that in the event of a counterparty default the clearer assumes the risk of loss. This enables traders to transact without performing due diligence on their counterparty.
Margin requirements are waived or reduced in some cases for hedgers who have physical ownership of the covered commodity or spread traders who have offsetting contracts balancing the position.
Clearing margin are financial safeguards to ensure that companies or corporations perform on their customers' open futures and options contracts. Clearing margins are distinct from customer margins that individual buyers and sellers of futures and options contracts are required to deposit with brokers.
Customer margin Within the futures industry, financial guarantees required of both buyers and sellers of futures contracts and sellers of options contracts to ensure fulfillment of contract obligations. Futures Commission Merchants are responsible for overseeing customer margin accounts. Margins are determined on the basis of market risk and contract value. Also referred to as performance bond margin.
Initial margin is the equity required to initiate a futures position. This is a type of performance bond. The maximum exposure is not limited to the amount of the initial margin, however the initial margin requirement is calculated based on the maximum estimated change in contract value within a trading day. Initial margin is set by the exchange.
If a position involves an exchange-traded product, the amount or percentage of initial margin is set by the exchange concerned.
In case of loss or if the value of the initial margin is being eroded, the broker will make a margin call in order to restore the amount of initial margin available. Often referred to as “variation margin”, margin called for this reason is usually done on a daily basis, however, in times of high volatility a broker can make a margin call or calls intra-day.
Calls for margin are usually expected to be paid and received on the same day. If not, the broker has the right to close sufficient positions to meet the amount called by way of margin. After the position is closed-out the client is liable for any resulting deficit in the client’s account.
Some U.S. exchanges also use the term “maintenance margin”, which in effect defines by how much the value of the initial margin can reduce before a margin call is made. However, most non-US brokers only use the term “initial margin” and “variation margin”.
The Initial Margin requirement is established by the Futures exchange, in contrast to other securities' Initial Margin (which is set by the Federal Reserve in the U.S. Markets).
A futures account is marked to market daily. If the margin drops below the margin maintenance requirement established by the exchange listing the futures, a margin call will be issued to bring the account back up to the required level.
Maintenance margin A set minimum margin per outstanding futures contract that a customer must maintain in their margin account.
Margin-equity ratio is a term used by speculators, representing the amount of their trading capital that is being held as margin at any particular time. The low margin requirements of futures results in substantial leverage of the investment. However, the exchanges require a minimum amount that varies depending on the contract and the trader. The broker may set the requirement higher, but may not set it lower. A trader, of course, can set it above that, if he does not want to be subject to margin calls.
Performance bond margin The amount of money deposited by both a buyer and seller of a futures contract or an options seller to ensure performance of the term of the contract. Margin in commodities is not a payment of equity or down payment on the commodity itself, but rather it is a security deposit.
Return on margin (ROM) is often used to judge performance because it represents the gain or loss compared to the exchange’s perceived risk as reflected in required margin. ROM may be calculated (realized return) / (initial margin). The Annualized ROM is equal to (ROM+1)(year/trade_duration)-1. For example, if a trader earns 10% on margin in two months, that would be about 77% annualized.
Settlement is the act of consummating the contract, and can be done in one of two ways, as specified per type of futures contract:
Expiry (or Expiration in the U.S.) is the time and the day that a particular delivery month of a futures contract stops trading, as well as the final settlement price for that contract. For many equity index and Interest rate future contracts (as well as for most equity options), this happens on the third Friday of certain trading months. On this day the t+1 futures contract becomes the t futures contract. For example, for most CME and CBOT contracts, at the expiration of the December contract, the March futures become the nearest contract. This is an exciting time for arbitrage desks, which try to make quick profits during the short period (perhaps 30 minutes) during which the underlying cash price and the futures price sometimes struggle to converge. At this moment the futures and the underlying assets are extremely liquid and any disparity between an index and an underlying asset is quickly traded by arbitrageurs. At this moment also, the increase in volume is caused by traders rolling over positions to the next contract or, in the case of equity index futures, purchasing underlying components of those indexes to hedge against current index positions. On the expiry date, a European equity arbitrage trading desk in London or Frankfurt will see positions expire in as many as eight major markets almost every half an hour.
When the deliverable asset exists in plentiful supply, or may be freely created, then the price of a futures contract is determined via arbitrage arguments. This is typical for stock index futures, treasury bond futures, and futures on physical commodities when they are in supply (e.g. agricultural crops after the harvest). However, when the deliverable commodity is not in plentiful supply or when it does not yet exist — for example on crops before the harvest or on Eurodollar Futures or Federal funds rate futures (in which the supposed underlying instrument is to be created upon the delivery date) — the futures price cannot be fixed by arbitrage. In this scenario there is only one force setting the price, which is simple supply and demand for the asset in the future, as expressed by supply and demand for the futures contract.
Arbitrage arguments ("rational pricing") apply when the deliverable asset exists in plentiful supply, or may be freely created. Here, the forward price represents the expected future value of the underlying discounted at the risk free rate—as any deviation from the theoretical price will afford investors a riskless profit opportunity and should be arbitraged away. We define the forward price to be the strike K such that the contract has 0 value at the present time. Assuming interest rates are constant the forward price of the futures is equal to the forward price of the forward contract with the same strike and maturity. It is also the same if the underlying asset is uncorrelated with interest rates. Otherwise the difference between the forward price on the futures (futures price) and forward price on the asset, is proportional to the covariance between the underlying asset price and interest rates. For example, a futures on a zero coupon bond will have a futures price lower than the forward price. This is called the futures "convexity correction."
Thus, assuming constant rates, for a simple, non-dividend paying asset, the value of the futures/forward price, F(t,T), will be found by compounding the present value S(t) at time t to maturity T by the rate of risk-free return r.
or, with continuous compounding
This relationship may be modified for storage costs, dividends, dividend yields, and convenience yields.
In a perfect market the relationship between futures and spot prices depends only on the above variables; in practice there are various market imperfections (transaction costs, differential borrowing and lending rates, restrictions on short selling) that prevent complete arbitrage. Thus, the futures price in fact varies within arbitrage boundaries around the theoretical price.
When the deliverable commodity is not in plentiful supply (or when it does not yet exist) rational pricing cannot be applied, as the arbitrage mechanism is not applicable. Here the price of the futures is determined by today's supply and demand for the underlying asset in the future.
In a deep and liquid market, supply and demand would be expected to balance out at a price which represents an unbiased expectation of the future price of the actual asset and so be given by the simple relationship.
By contrast, in a shallow and illiquid market, or in a market in which large quantities of the deliverable asset have been deliberately withheld from market participants (an illegal action known as cornering the market), the market clearing price for the futures may still represent the balance between supply and demand but the relationship between this price and the expected future price of the asset can break down.
The expectation based relationship will also hold in a no-arbitrage setting when we take expectations with respect to the risk-neutral probability. In other words: a futures price is a martingale with respect to the risk-neutral probability. With this pricing rule, a speculator is expected to break even when the futures market fairly prices the deliverable commodity.
The situation where the price of a commodity for future delivery is higher than the spot price, or where a far future delivery price is higher than a nearer future delivery, is known as contango. The reverse, where the price of a commodity for future delivery is lower than the spot price, or where a far future delivery price is lower than a nearer future delivery, is known as backwardation.
There are many different kinds of futures contracts, reflecting the many different kinds of "tradable" assets about which the contract may be based such as commodities, securities (such as single-stock futures), currencies or intangibles such as interest rates and indexes. For information on futures markets in specific underlying commodity markets, follow the links. For a list of tradable commodities futures contracts, see List of traded commodities. See also the futures exchange article.
Trading on commodities began in Japan in the 18th century with the trading of rice and silk, and similarly in Holland with tulip bulbs. Trading in the US began in the mid 19th century, when central grain markets were established and a marketplace was created for farmers to bring their commodities and sell them either for immediate delivery (also called spot or cash market) or for forward delivery. These forward contracts were private contracts between buyers and sellers and became the forerunner to today's exchange-traded futures contracts. Although contract trading began with traditional commodities such as grains, meat and livestock, exchange trading has expanded to include metals, energy, currency and currency indexes, equities and equity indexes, government interest rates and private interest rates.
Contracts on financial instruments were introduced in the 1970s by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and these instruments became hugely successful and quickly overtook commodities futures in terms of trading volume and global accessibility to the markets. This innovation led to the introduction of many new futures exchanges worldwide, such as the London International Financial Futures Exchange in 1982 (now Euronext.liffe), Deutsche Terminbörse (now Eurex) and the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM). Today, there are more than 90 futures and futures options exchanges worldwide trading to include:
Most futures contracts codes are five characters. The first two characters identify the contract type, the third character identifies the month and the last two characters identify the year.
Third (month) futures contract codes are
Example: CLX14 is a Crude Oil (CL), November (X) 2014 (14) contract.
Futures traders are traditionally placed in one of two groups: hedgers, who have an interest in the underlying asset (which could include an intangible such as an index or interest rate) and are seeking to hedge out the risk of price changes; and speculators, who seek to make a profit by predicting market moves and opening a derivative contract related to the asset "on paper", while they have no practical use for or intent to actually take or make delivery of the underlying asset. In other words, the investor is seeking exposure to the asset in a long futures or the opposite effect via a short futures contract.
Hedgers typically include producers and consumers of a commodity or the owner of an asset or assets subject to certain influences such as an interest rate.
For example, in traditional commodity markets, farmers often sell futures contracts for the crops and livestock they produce to guarantee a certain price, making it easier for them to plan. Similarly, livestock producers often purchase futures to cover their feed costs, so that they can plan on a fixed cost for feed. In modern (financial) markets, "producers" of interest rate swaps or equity derivative products will use financial futures or equity index futures to reduce or remove the risk on the swap.
Those that buy or sell commodity futures need to be careful. If a company buys contracts hedging against price increases, but in fact the market price of the commodity is substantially lower at time of delivery, they could find themselves disastrously non-competitive (for example see: VeraSun Energy).
Speculators typically fall into three categories: position traders, day traders, and swing traders (swing trading), though many hybrid types and unique styles exist. With many investors pouring into the futures markets in recent years controversy has risen about whether speculators are responsible for increased volatility in commodities like oil, and experts are divided on the matter.
An example that has both hedge and speculative notions involves a mutual fund or separately managed account whose investment objective is to track the performance of a stock index such as the S&P 500 stock index. The Portfolio manager often "equitizes" cash inflows in an easy and cost effective manner by investing in (opening long) S&P 500 stock index futures. This gains the portfolio exposure to the index which is consistent with the fund or account investment objective without having to buy an appropriate proportion of each of the individual 500 stocks just yet. This also preserves balanced diversification, maintains a higher degree of the percent of assets invested in the market and helps reduce tracking error in the performance of the fund/account. When it is economically feasible (an efficient amount of shares of every individual position within the fund or account can be purchased), the portfolio manager can close the contract and make purchases of each individual stock.
The social utility of futures markets is considered to be mainly in the transfer of risk, and increased liquidity between traders with different risk and time preferences, from a hedger to a speculator, for example.
In many cases, options are traded on futures, sometimes called simply "futures options". A put is the option to sell a futures contract, and a call is the option to buy a futures contract. For both, the option strike price is the specified futures price at which the future is traded if the option is exercised. Futures are often used since they are delta one instruments. Calls and options on futures may be priced similarly to those on traded assets by using an extension of the Black-Scholes formula, namely the Black model. For options on futures, where the premium is not due until unwound, the positions are commonly referred to as a fution, as they act like options, however, they settle like futures.
Investors can either take on the role of option seller (or "writer") or the option buyer. Option sellers are generally seen as taking on more risk because they are contractually obligated to take the opposite futures position if the options buyer exercises their right to the futures position specified in the option. The price of an option is determined by supply and demand principles and consists of the option premium, or the price paid to the option seller for offering the option and taking on risk.
All futures transactions in the United States are regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an independent agency of the United States government. The Commission has the right to hand out fines and other punishments for an individual or company who breaks any rules. Although by law the commission regulates all transactions, each exchange can have its own rule, and under contract can fine companies for different things or extend the fine that the CFTC hands out.
The CFTC publishes weekly reports containing details of the open interest of market participants for each market-segment that has more than 20 participants. These reports are released every Friday (including data from the previous Tuesday) and contain data on open interest split by reportable and non-reportable open interest as well as commercial and non-commercial open interest. This type of report is referred to as the 'Commitments of Traders Report', COT-Report or simply COTR.
Following Björkwe give a definition of a futures contract. We describe a futures contract with delivery of item J at the time T:
A closely related contract is a forward contract. A forward is like a futures in that it specifies the exchange of goods for a specified price at a specified future date. However, a forward is not traded on an exchange and thus does not have the interim partial payments due to marking to market. Nor is the contract standardized, as on the exchange.
Unlike an option, both parties of a futures contract must fulfill the contract on the delivery date. The seller delivers the underlying asset to the buyer, or, if it is a cash-settled futures contract, then cash is transferred from the futures trader who sustained a loss to the one who made a profit. To exit the commitment prior to the settlement date, the holder of a futures position can close out its contract obligations by taking the opposite position on another futures contract on the same asset and settlement date. The difference in futures prices is then a profit or loss.
While futures and forward contracts are both contracts to deliver an asset on a future date at a prearranged price, they are different in two main respects:
Forwards have credit risk, but futures do not because a clearing house guarantees against default risk by taking both sides of the trade and marking to market their positions every night. Forwards are basically unregulated, while futures contracts are regulated at the federal government level.
The Futures Industry Association (FIA) estimates that 6.97 billion futures contracts were traded in 2007, an increase of nearly 32% over the 2006 figure.
Futures are always traded on an exchange, whereas forwards always trade over-the-counter, or can simply be a signed contract between two parties. Therefore:
Futures are margined daily to the daily spot price of a forward with the same agreed-upon delivery price and underlying asset (based on mark to market ).
Forwards do not have a standard. They may transact only on the settlement date. More typical would be for the parties to agree to true up, for example, every quarter. The fact that forwards are not margined daily means that, due to movements in the price of the underlying asset, a large differential can build up between the forward's delivery price and the settlement price, and in any event, an unrealized gain (loss) can build up.
Again, this differs from futures which get 'trued-up' typically daily by a comparison of the market value of the future to the collateral securing the contract to keep it in line with the brokerage margin requirements. This true-ing up occurs by the "loss" party providing additional collateral; so if the buyer of the contract incurs a drop in value, the shortfall or variation margin would typically be shored up by the investor wiring or depositing additional cash in the brokerage account.
In a forward though, the spread in exchange rates is not trued up regularly but, rather, it builds up as unrealized gain (loss) depending on which side of the trade being discussed. This means that entire unrealized gain (loss) becomes realized at the time of delivery (or as what typically occurs, the time the contract is closed prior to expiration)—assuming the parties must transact at the underlying currency's spot price to facilitate receipt/delivery.
The result is that forwards have higher credit risk than futures, and that funding is charged differently.
In most cases involving institutional investors, the daily variation margin settlement guidelines for futures call for actual money movement only above some insignificant amount to avoid wiring back and forth small sums of cash. The threshold amount for daily futures variation margin for institutional investors is often $1,000.
The situation for forwards, however, where no daily true-up takes place in turn creates credit risk for forwards, but not so much for futures. Simply put, the risk of a forward contract is that the supplier will be unable to deliver the referenced asset, or that the buyer will be unable to pay for it on the delivery date or the date at which the opening party closes the contract.
The margining of futures eliminates much of this credit risk by forcing the holders to update daily to the price of an equivalent forward purchased that day. This means that there will usually be very little additional money due on the final day to settle the futures contract: only the final day's gain or loss, not the gain or loss over the life of the contract.
In addition, the daily futures-settlement failure risk is borne by an exchange, rather than an individual party, further limiting credit risk in futures.
Example: Consider a futures contract with a $100 price: Let's say that on day 50, a futures contract with a $100 delivery price (on the same underlying asset as the future) costs $88. On day 51, that futures contract costs $90. This means that the "mark-to-market" calculation would requires the holder of one side of the future to pay $2 on day 51 to track the changes of the forward price ("post $2 of margin"). This money goes, via margin accounts, to the holder of the other side of the future. That is, the loss party wires cash to the other party.
A forward-holder, however, may pay nothing until settlement on the final day, potentially building up a large balance; this may be reflected in the mark by an allowance for credit risk. So, except for tiny effects of convexity bias (due to earning or paying interest on margin), futures and forwards with equal delivery prices result in the same total loss or gain, but holders of futures experience that loss/gain in daily increments which track the forward's daily price changes, while the forward's spot price converges to the settlement price. Thus, while under mark to market accounting, for both assets the gain or loss accrues over the holding period; for a futures this gain or loss is realized daily, while for a forward contract the gain or loss remains unrealized until expiry.
Note that, due to the path dependence of funding, a futures contract is not, strictly speaking, a European-style derivative: the total gain or loss of the trade depends not only on the value of the underlying asset at expiry, but also on the path of prices on the way. This difference is generally quite small though.
With an exchange-traded future, the clearing house interposes itself on every trade. Thus there is no risk of counterparty default. The only risk is that the clearing house defaults (e.g. become bankrupt), which is considered very unlikely.
In finance, a derivative is a contract that derives its value from the performance of an underlying entity. This underlying entity can be an asset, index, or interest rate, and is often simply called the "underlying". Derivatives can be used for a number of purposes, including insuring against price movements (hedging), increasing exposure to price movements for speculation or getting access to otherwise hard-to-trade assets or markets. Some of the more common derivatives include forwards, futures, options, swaps, and variations of these such as synthetic collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. Most derivatives are traded over-the-counter (off-exchange) or on an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange, while most insurance contracts have developed into a separate industry. In the United States, after the financial crisis of 2007–2009, there has been increased pressure to move derivatives to trade on exchanges. Derivatives are one of the three main categories of financial instruments, the other two being stocks and debt. The oldest example of a derivative in history, attested to by Aristotle, is thought to be a contract transaction of olives, entered into by ancient Greek philosopher Thales, who made a profit in the exchange. Bucket shops, outlawed a century ago, are a more recent historical example.
A commodity market is a market that trades in the primary economic sector rather than manufactured products, such as cocoa, fruit and sugar. Hard commodities are mined, such as gold and oil. Investors access about 50 major commodity markets worldwide with purely financial transactions increasingly outnumbering physical trades in which goods are delivered. Futures contracts are the oldest way of investing in commodities. Futures are secured by physical assets. Commodity markets can include physical trading and derivatives trading using spot prices, forwards, futures, and options on futures. Farmers have used a simple form of derivative trading in the commodity market for centuries for price risk management.
Normal backwardation, also sometimes called backwardation, is the market condition wherein the price of a commodities' forward or futures contract is trading below the expected spot price at contract maturity. The resulting futures or forward curve would typically be downward sloping, since contracts for further dates would typically trade at even lower prices. In practice, the expected future spot price is unknown, and the term "backwardation" may be used to refer to "positive basis", which occurs when the current spot price exceeds the price of the future.
Contango, also sometimes called forwardation, is a situation where the futures price of a commodity is higher than the anticipated spot price at maturity of the futures contract. In a contango situation, arbitrageurs/speculators, are "willing to pay more [now] for a commodity [to be received] at some point in the future than the actual expected price of the commodity [at that future point]. This may be due to people's desire to pay a premium to have the commodity in the future rather than paying the costs of storage and carry costs of buying the commodity today." On the other side of the trade, hedgers are happy to sell futures contracts and accept the higher-than-expected returns. A contango market is also known as a normal market, or carrying-cost market.
In finance, a put or put option is a stock market device which gives the owner the right to sell an asset, at a specified price, by a predetermined date to a given party. The purchase of a put option is interpreted as a negative sentiment about the future value of the underlying stock. The term "put" comes from the fact that the owner has the right to "put up for sale" the stock or index.
A hedge is an investment position intended to offset potential losses or gains that may be incurred by a companion investment. A hedge can be constructed from many types of financial instruments, including stocks, exchange-traded funds, insurance, forward contracts, swaps, options, gambles, many types of over-the-counter and derivative products, and futures contracts.
Rational pricing is the assumption in financial economics that asset prices will reflect the arbitrage-free price of the asset as any deviation from this price will be "arbitraged away". This assumption is useful in pricing fixed income securities, particularly bonds, and is fundamental to the pricing of derivative instruments.
In finance, a single-stock future (SSF) is a type of futures contract between two parties to exchange a specified number of stocks in a company for a price agreed today with delivery occurring at a specified future date, the delivery date. The contracts are traded on a futures exchange. The party agreeing to take delivery of the underlying stock in the future, the "buyer" of the contract, is said to be "long", and the party agreeing to deliver the stock in the future, the "seller" of the contract, is said to be "short". The terminology reflects the expectations of the parties - the buyer hopes or expects that the stock price is going to increase, while the seller hopes or expects that it will decrease. Note that the contract itself costs nothing to enter; the buy/sell terminology is a linguistic convenience reflecting the position each party is taking?
The cost of carry or carrying charge is cost of storing a physical commodity, such as grain or metals, over a period of time. The carrying charge includes insurance, storage and interest on the invested funds as well as other incidental costs. In interest rate futures markets, it refers to the differential between the yield on a cash instrument and the cost of the funds necessary to buy the instrument.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to finance:
In finance, a spread trade is the simultaneous purchase of one security and sale of a related security, called legs, as a unit. Spread trades are usually executed with options or futures contracts as the legs, but other securities are sometimes used. They are executed to yield an overall net position whose value, called the spread, depends on the difference between the prices of the legs. Common spreads are priced and traded as a unit on futures exchanges rather than as individual legs, thus ensuring simultaneous execution and eliminating the execution risk of one leg executing but the other failing.
In finance, an option is a contract which gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset or instrument at a specified strike price prior to or on a specified date, depending on the form of the option. The strike price may be set by reference to the spot price of the underlying security or commodity on the day an option is taken out, or it may be fixed at a discount or at a premium. The seller has the corresponding obligation to fulfill the transaction – to sell or buy – if the buyer (owner) "exercises" the option. An option that conveys to the owner the right to buy at a specific price is referred to as a call; an option that conveys the right of the owner to sell at a specific price is referred to as a put. Both are commonly traded, but the call option is more frequently discussed.
A foreign exchange derivative is a financial derivative whose payoff depends on the foreign exchange rate(s) of two currencies. These instruments are commonly used for currency speculation and arbitrage or for hedging foreign exchange risk.
Convergence trade is a trading strategy consisting of two positions: buying one asset forward—i.e., for delivery in future —and selling a similar asset forward for a higher price, in the expectation that by the time the assets must be delivered, the prices will have become closer to equal, and thus one profits by the amount of convergence.
In finance, a dividend future is an exchange-traded derivative contract that allows investors to take positions on future dividend payments. Dividend futures can be on a single company, a basket of companies, or on an Equity index. They settle on the amount of dividend paid by the company, the basket of companies, or the index during the period of the contract.