Duration: 6:42
Level: Beginner

Understand what ‘the basis’ in the futures market represents, and what the process of arriving at this information means for producers, hedgers and speculators.

Study Notes:

Now that we’ve touched on and explored some of the different types of risks in the futures, and broader financial markets, let’s now discuss why the price of a futures contract differs from the price you might pay now.

The current market settles on a ‘spot’ basis, which is typically for immediate delivery, where ‘Immediate’ could mean two days. Or, for example, in a supermarket, you would likely find that the cash price would equate to what you pay for, say, corn at the cash register, and while shoppers can generally buy corn throughout the year, the crop might be harvested just once annually.

It’s the role of the futures market to draw-in all known information about next year’s crop, and figure out what the forward or future’s price is.

And this is where producers, hedgers and speculators get together on a near-24-hour basis to assimilate the latest information and reflect it through what is called price discovery.

This is important information to global financial and physical market participants, as futures allow them to see the current price of a product not yet produced.

  • The difference between the cash or spot price and the forward or futures price is known as ‘the basis’.

If we take a look at the prevailing market price for the current corn contract, for instance, and compare it with, say, the price of a futures contract that expires in a year, we can note the difference between these prices as the basis.

Changes in the basis deliver their own message to producers. Should forward prices reflect too much supply of a specific commodity at a future date in time, a farmer, for example, might decide to switch to a less abundant crop.

In our next video, we’ll discuss futures prices a bit further, providing some insights into concepts known as contango and backwardation.

Join the Discussion

Thank you for engaging with IBKR Campus. If you have a general question, it may already be covered in our FAQs. If you have an account-specific question or concern, please reach out to Client Services.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.