What You Should Know About Futures Trading

November 24, 2009

Futures contracts as they relate to finance is a simple contract devised to allow someone to ultimately purchase or sell specific commodities that will be delivered at some future time. Generally there are certain dates and time frames which must be met in order to be a valid contract.

These types of transactions are never offered on the usual stock market but you would find them on what is commonly known as the futures exchange. They are not considered to be securities in the strictest sense of the word as stocks or bonds may be. They are a type of derivative.A futures options contract or a commodity option is a derivative as well.

The actual prices associated with the various commodities vary according to the supply and demand. If the pork belly crop is bad this year the prices will likely be high while there is an over abundance of coco would result in a lower than normal price. The future date is known as the delivery date while the daily bid on the exchange would be the settlement price.

In a nutshell in futures trading, what a contract states is that the holder can take delivery of the commodity at some future date however the futures must be complied with by the settlement date. At the settlement date the seller will deliver the asset to the buyer whether it is coco or pork bellies or whatever. In order to fulfill your obligation prior to the established settlement date you must offset your position by selling if you purchased the futures or buying back if you had a previous short position which ultimately allows you to balance everything out.

An interesting side note here is that if you purchased a futures contract and do nothing and the settlement date arrives you could end up with a yard full of assets that you really did not want. Unlike stocks and bonds we are talking real time products here.



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