Investing In Commodities With A Futures Contract

November 3, 2009

Commodities are an important part of everyday life whether related to food, metals or energy. They can also be a great way for an investor to diversify beyond the tradition of stocks and bonds or to profit from price movements. There are a number of ways to invest in commodities, some of which have been made easy for the average investor. A futures contract or future options provides a popular way to invest in commodities.

A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity at a specified price in the future. Such contracts are available with commodities such as crude oil, gold and natural gas. They may also be bought for agricultural products such as cattle or corn.

Many who participate in the futures markets are commercial or institutional users of the commodities they actually trade. They may then use these markets to take a position that reduces the risk of financial loss when a price change occurs. Individuals who choose to participate are speculators hoping to profit from the price of the futures contract. They usually choose to close out their positions before the contract is due, thus not accepting actual delivery of the particular commodity.

If you decide to invest in a futures contract or future option you will need to open a brokerage account if your broker does not trade futures. You will also be required to fill out a form that acknowledges your understanding of the risks associated with this type of trading. The contract for each commodity needs a minimum deposit that will vary with each specific product. This deposit amount depends on the broker and the value of your account will either increase or decrease with the contract value. If the contract value decreases, you will be subject to a margin call and will then need to place more money in your account in order to keep the position open. Because of the huge amounts of leverage, you can receive huge returns or suffer large losses just from small movements in price. This means a futures account can literally double or be wiped out in only minutes.

Most futures contracts also have options that are associated with them. These futures options still let you invest in the futures contract by, but limit any loss you may incur to the option’s cost. Since options are derivatives, they usually do not move point-for-point with the futures contract.

There are, however, advantages to buying futures contracts. One is that the leverage they provide allows for large profits for those who are on the right side of the trade. Another is minimum-deposit accounts control full size contracts an individual investor ordinarily would not be able to afford.

Before investing in a futures contract make sure you understand the risk involved. Know, too, that there are advantages like the ones mentioned above that can make these contracts very profitable for you.


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