What is Futures Trading

Futures Trading Meaning

Futures trading is the act of purchasing and selling contracts for future delivery of commodities, financial instruments, or indices. This short-term investment strategy allows traders to speculate on the future prices of these assets.


What is Futures Trading?

Futures trading involves agreements to buy or sell assets at a future date at a price that is agreed upon today. It’s used for hedging risk and speculative investments. This form of trading enables participants to lock in prices for commodities, currencies, or financial instruments, protecting against price volatility. 

Futures contracts are standardized in quantity and quality to facilitate trading on futures exchanges. Traders can take positions based on their anticipation of future price movements, with the potential to profit from accurate predictions. These contracts are legally binding agreements, making them a critical tool for managing financial risk.

Futures Trading Example

Future trading examples include traders predicting that crude oil prices will rise over the next three months. They buy a crude oil futures contract at the current price, hoping to profit from the anticipated price increase.

Assume the current price of crude oil is Rs 60 per barrel, and a trader expects the price to rise due to upcoming market changes. The trader buys a futures contract for 1,000 barrels of crude oil at Rs 60 per barrel, with a three-month delivery date. 

If the price rises to Rs 70 per barrel at the contract’s expiration, the trader can sell the contract at this new price. The profit would be the difference between the buying and selling prices minus any trading fees. 

In this case, if the price indeed rises as expected, the trader would make a profit of Rs 10,000 (Rs70 – Rs60 = Rs10 profit per barrel x 1,000 barrels), showcasing how futures trading can be used to speculate on and benefit from price movements in various commodities.

Features Of Future Contract

The main feature of futures contracts is that they are standardized agreements traded on futures exchanges that specify the quantities and qualities of the underlying asset. They come with expiration dates and are settled daily, with changes in margin requirements based on market volatility.

  • Standardization: Futures contracts are standardized in terms of the quantity, quality, and delivery time of the underlying asset, making them easily traded on the exchange.
  • Leverage: Traders can control large amounts of the commodity with a relatively small amount of capital, amplifying both potential gains and losses.
  • Margin Requirements: Futures trading requires the use of margin, which allows traders to post a fraction of the contract’s value as collateral that can fluctuate due to market volatility.
  • Liquidity: Futures markets are typically very liquid, facilitating easy entry and exit for traders.
  • Hedging and Speculation: Futures contracts serve dual purposes, enabling producers and consumers to hedge against price fluctuations, while also offering opportunities for speculators to profit from price movements.

Futures Vs Options

The primary distinction between futures and options is that in futures contracts, the buyer and seller must complete the transaction at the agreed-upon price and date. In contrast, options contracts grant the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the asset at a predetermined price until the expiration date.

ObligationYes, both parties must buy or sell the asset.No, the buyer has the right but not the obligation.
RiskPotentially unlimited for both buyer and seller.Limited to the premium paid for the option buyer; potentially unlimited for the seller.
Potential GainUnlimited for both buyer and seller.Unlimited for the buyer; limited to the premium received for the seller.
Upfront CostMargin requirement (not a cost but a performance bond).Premium paid/received.
Nature of ContractStandardised contracts.Can be standardized or customized (OTC options).

Advantages of Futures Trading

The main advantage of futures trading is that it offers high leverage, which allows for greater potential returns; the ability to hedge against price movements; access to a wide range of markets; high liquidity, facilitating easier entry and exit; and transparent pricing in regulated markets.

  • Leverage: Using margin in futures trading allows traders to control large contract sizes with a fraction of the contract’s total value, magnifying potential returns on investment. This feature makes it possible to achieve significant profits from relatively small price movements.
  • Hedging: Producers, consumers, and investors use futures contracts to secure a future price for a commodity or financial instrument, effectively managing risk associated with price volatility. This strategy enables them to plan their operations or investments with more certainty, as they can lock in costs or revenues in advance, shielding themselves from unexpected market shifts.
  • Market Access: Futures trading provides access to a wide array of markets worldwide, allowing traders to speculate on or hedge against price movements in everything from agricultural products to energy resources and financial indices. This extensive market access is beneficial for diversifying investment portfolios and finding opportunities in various sectors regardless of geographical boundaries.
  • Liquidity: The high liquidity in major futures markets means that traders can quickly enter and exit positions, often without causing significant price disruption. This aspect is crucial for traders who need to adjust their positions swiftly in response to new information or market trends, ensuring they can manage their trades efficiently and effectively.
  • Transparency: Regulated futures markets operate with strict oversight, ensuring that all trading activity is conducted openly and fairly. All market participants have easy access to price information, market data, and transaction volumes, which promotes a level playing field and helps to prevent unfair practices like price manipulation and insider trading.

Futures Trading Strategies

Futures trading strategies include spread, breakout, going long, pullback, and order flow trading. These techniques are designed to capitalize on market trends, price discrepancies, or specific market conditions, offering traders various approaches to achieving their investment goals.

  1. Spread Trading: This involves simultaneously buying and selling different futures contracts to profit from the price difference between them. Traders might use spread trading to exploit discrepancies in pricing between two months of the same commodity or between two related commodities, aiming to benefit from the narrowing or widening of the spread.
  2. Breakout Trading: Breakout traders look for significant price movements outside of a predefined range and enter trades when the price breaks above or below resistance levels. This strategy takes advantage of the momentum that frequently follows such breakouts, with traders positioning themselves to profit from the expected continuation of the trend.
  3. Going Long: A straightforward strategy where traders purchase futures contracts with the expectation that the price of the underlying asset will rise. Going long is based on bullish market sentiment, with profits realized if the market moves in the anticipated direction before the contract expires.
  4. Pullback: This strategy involves entering the market when a temporary reversal in a prevailing trend provides a buying (in uptrends) or selling (in downtrends) opportunity at a more favorable price. Traders use pullbacks to position themselves within a trend at a better entry point, expecting the original trend to resume.
  5. Order Flow Trading: Order flow trading is based on analyzing the buying and selling pressure in the market to predict future price movements. Traders use real-time data on orders and transactions to identify potential price changes, aiming to enter and exit trades ahead of these movements for profit.

How To Trade Futures?

Key Steps for Trading Futures:

  1. Open a brokerage account suitable for futures trading.
  2. Conduct market research to identify potential trading opportunities.
  3. Develop a trading plan, including risk management strategies.

Open a Brokerage Account

Choose a broker like Alice Blue that offers futures trading and meets your needs in terms of trading tools, fees, and educational resources. You can trade in futures at just ₹ 15 per order with Alice Blue.

Conduct Market Research

Utilize market analysis, economic indicators, and futures market data to identify commodities or financial instruments with profit potential. Stay informed about global events and trends that could impact prices.

Develop a Trading Plan

Define your trading goals, risk tolerance, and strategies. Decide in advance how much of your capital you are willing to risk on each trade, and set your profit targets and stop-loss orders to manage risk.

Learn About Futures Contracts

Understand the specifics of the futures contracts you are interested in, including contract sizes, margin requirements, and expiration dates. Each commodity or instrument has its own characteristics.

Start Trading

Place your trades using your broker’s platform. Monitor your positions on a regular basis and be ready to react quickly if the market moves against you. Use technical and fundamental analysis to help you make trading decisions.

Monitor and Adjust Your Positions

Keep a close eye on market conditions and your open positions. Be ready to close positions or adjust your strategy based on market movements and news that may affect your trades.

Review and Learn

Regularly review your trades to learn from your successes and mistakes. Continuous learning and strategy adjustment are key to long-term success in futures trading.

What Is Future Trading In Stock Market?  – Quick Summary

  • Futures trading allows traders to speculate on or hedge against the future price movements of commodities, financial instruments, or indices.
  • It involves legally binding agreements to buy or sell an asset at a future date, providing a mechanism to manage financial risk.
  • An example of futures trading is buying a crude oil futures contract at a current price with the anticipation of selling it at a higher price, potentially yielding significant profits.
  • Futures contracts are standardized, with specific quantities, qualities, and expiration dates, facilitating their trade on exchanges.
  • Unlike options, futures contracts obligate both parties to execute the trade, offering a distinct approach to investment and risk management.
  • Futures trading offers advantages like high leverage, hedging capabilities, diverse market access, high liquidity, and transparent pricing.
  • Strategies in futures trading, such as spread trading, breakout trading, going long, pullback, and order flow trading, allow traders to leverage market trends and conditions.
  • Trading futures requires opening a brokerage account, conducting market research, and developing a comprehensive trading plan with risk management.
  • You can trade in futures at just ₹ 15 per order with Alice Blue. We provide Margin Trade Funding facility, where you can use 4x margin to buy stocks i.e. you can buy stocks worth ₹ 10000 at just ₹ 2500. 

Futures Trading Meaning – FAQs

What is Futures Trading?

Futures trading is the act of purchasing and selling futures contracts, which are agreements to buy or sell an asset at a future date for a price agreed upon today. It enables traders to speculate on the future price movements of various assets, such as commodities, currencies, and financial indices, or hedge against potential price volatility in their portfolios.

What Is The Difference Between Options And Futures?

The main difference between options and futures is that futures contracts require both the buyer and the seller to complete the transaction at the specified price and date. Options, on the other hand, give the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price before the contract expires, allowing for greater flexibility and potentially lower risk than futures contracts.

What Is An Example Of A Futures Trade?

An example of a futures trade could involve a wheat farmer selling a futures contract to deliver 5,000 bushels of wheat at Rs 5 per bushel in six months. If the market price of wheat drops to Rs 4 by the delivery date, the farmer still receives the agreed-upon price of Rs 5 per bushel, thereby hedging against price declines. Conversely, a bakery may buy a futures contract at the same terms to secure a stable price for wheat, protecting against price increases.

Is Future Trading Profitable?

Futures trading can be profitable, but it also involves a high level of risk. Success in futures trading requires a deep understanding of market trends, robust risk management strategies, and the ability to make informed decisions quickly. While it offers the potential for significant gains, it can also result in substantial losses, especially due to the leverage involved in futures trading.

Is Futures Trading Better Than Stocks?

Whether futures trading is better than stocks depends on the trader’s goals, risk tolerance, and market expertise. Futures trading offers high leverage, the ability to go long or short easily, and the potential for significant returns, but with higher risk and volatility.

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