A futures contract is a standardized contract that calls for the delivery of a specific quantity of a specific product at some time in the future at a predetermined price. Futures contracts are derivative instruments very similar to forward contracts but they differ in some aspects.
Futures contracts are traded in futures exchanges worldwide and covers a wide range of commodities such as agriculture produce, livestock, energy, metals and financial products such as market indices, interest rates and currencies.
The primary purpose of the futures market is to allow those who wish to manage price risk (the hedgers) to transfer that risk to those who are willing to take that risk (the speculators) in return for an opportunity to profit.
Producers and manufacturers can make use of the futures market to hedge the price risk of commodities that they need to purchase or sell in order to protect their profit margins. Businesses employ a long hedge to lock in the price of a raw material that they wish to purchase some time in the future. To lock in a selling price for a product to be sold in the future, a short hedge is used.
Speculators assume the price risk that hedgers try to avoid in return for a possibility of profits. They have no commercial interest in the underlying commodities and are motivated purely by the potential for profits. Although this makes them appear to be mere gamblers, speculators do play an important role in the futures market. Without speculators bridging the gap between buyers and sellers with a commercial interest, the market will be less fluid, less efficient and more volatile.
Futures speculators take up a long futures position when they believe that the price of the underlying will rise. They take up a short futures position when they believe that the price of the underlying will fall.
In March, a speculator bullish on soybeans purchased one May Soybeans futures at $9.60 per bushel. Each Soybeans futures contract represents 5000 bushels and requires an initial margin of $3500. To open the futures position, $3500 is debited from his trading account and held by the exchange clearinghouse.
Come May, the price of soybeans has gone up to $10 per bushel. Since the price has gone up by $0.40 per bushel, the speculator can exit his futures position with a profit of $0.40 x 5000 bushels = $2000.
To buy or sell futures, you need a broker that can handle futures trades.
OptionsHouse is a full fledged Futures Commission Merchant that provides a streamlined access to the futures markets at extremely reasonable contract rates.Click here to open a futures trading account at OptionsHouse.com now!
Buying straddles is a great way to play earnings. Many a times, stock price gap up or down following the quarterly earnings report but often, the direction of the movement can be unpredictable. For instance, a sell off can occur even though the earnings report is good if investors had expected great results....[Read on...]
If you are very bullish on a particular stock for the long term and is looking to purchase the stock but feels that it is slightly overvalued at the moment, then you may want to consider writing put options on the stock as a means to acquire it at a discount....[Read on...]
If you are investing the Peter Lynch style, trying to predict the next multi-bagger, then you would want to find out more about LEAPS® and why I consider them to be a great option for investing in the next Microsoft®.... [Read on...]
Cash dividends issued by stocks have big impact on their option prices. This is because the underlying stock price is expected to drop by the dividend amount on the ex-dividend date....[Read on...]
As an alternative to writing covered calls, one can enter a bull call spread for a similar profit potential but with significantly less capital requirement. In place of holding the underlying stock in the covered call strategy, the alternative....[Read on...]
Some stocks pay generous dividends every quarter. You qualify for the dividend if you are holding on the shares before the ex-dividend date....[Read on...]
To achieve higher returns in the stock market, besides doing more homework on the companies you wish to buy, it is often necessary to take on higher risk. A most common way to do that is to buy stocks on margin....[Read on...]
Day trading options can be a successful, profitable strategy but there are a couple of things you need to know before you use start using options for day trading.... [Read on...]
Learn about the put call ratio, the way it is derived and how it can be used as a contrarian indicator.... [Read on...]
Put-call parity is an important principle in options pricing first identified by Hans Stoll in his paper, The Relation Between Put and Call Prices, in 1969. It states that the premium of a call option implies a certain fair price for the corresponding put option having the same strike price and expiration date, and vice versa.... [Read on...]
In options trading, you may notice the use of certain greek alphabets like delta or gamma when describing risks associated with various positions. They are known as "the greeks".... [Read on...]
Since the value of stock options depends on the price of the underlying stock, it is useful to calculate the fair value of the stock by using a technique known as discounted cash flow.... [Read on...]