Duration: 2:53
Level: Beginner

Acquire the skills to identify the components of a futures. Understand the role of a futures exchange, including the standardization of product requirements in commodities markets, and certain marketplace rules.

Study Notes:

One of the more interesting aspects of the futures market is how exchanges create a commoditized contract.

Take wood for example.

You might go to a hardware store to buy wood for shelving, have a look at what they have in stock, and find their supply falls short of the needs of your project.

In the commodity markets, the exchange standardizes the requirements for a product. For example, lumber is of a specific quality, type and length; and oil has to be of a certain blend, quality and grade.

The advantage is that when investors are trading contracts with the same underlying qualities and characteristics, it doesn’t matter who the buyer or seller is, since everyone is trading the same product.

The exchange also defines when contracts start trading, what hours they can be traded, and importantly, when the life of the contract expires, and what happens where – in the settlement and delivery chain.

Buyers and sellers generally know that the contract they are trading has a specific life cycle, and in most cases, the contract is not held until expiration. Rather, producers and end-users are the ones who tend to take delivery and deliver products. Everyone else simply migrates to the next actively traded contract month.

But by creating the product and the venue, the exchange can provide a marketplace for commodities and products that few investors actually ever see.

Let’s take a look at an example of what a standardized futures contract looks like.

Here’s an example of a Nymex-traded crude oil contract that is designed to cover 1,000 barrels or 42,000 gallons of what refiners grade as light, sweet crude oil.

Trading months, delivery dates and locations are detailed in the contract specifications, and investors are also made aware of delivery windows, settlement dates and other crucial pieces of information, including when they could be physically delivered if still holding the contract.

Remember, the futures exchange facilitates trading of a highly detailed and commoditized product and, as a central counterparty to transactions, removes uncertainty in the delivery process, as well as provides a guaranty of settlement to all traders, who, in turn are required to post margin – which is the subject of our next video.

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Disclosure: Interactive Brokers

The analysis in this material is provided for information only and is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security. To the extent that this material discusses general market activity, industry or sector trends or other broad-based economic or political conditions, it should not be construed as research or investment advice. To the extent that it includes references to specific securities, commodities, currencies, or other instruments, those references do not constitute a recommendation by IBKR to buy, sell or hold such investments. This material does not and is not intended to take into account the particular financial conditions, investment objectives or requirements of individual customers. Before acting on this material, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interactive Brokers, its affiliates, or its employees.

Disclosure: Futures Trading

Futures are not suitable for all investors. The amount you may lose may be greater than your initial investment. Before trading futures, please read the CFTC Risk Disclosure. A copy and additional information are available at ibkr.com.