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Understanding Futures Trading

By: Sue Jan

Many people have the notion that commodity futures trading is very difficult to understand. It may only seem difficult when you are new to futures trading, but once you understand the inner workings and get a hang of it, you will be well on your way to success.

People have a common misconception that commodity exchanges determine or establish the prices at which commodity futures are bought and sold. This is not true. Prices are determined by supply and demand conditions. Just keep in mind that if there are more buyers than sellers, prices will be forced up and vice versa.

Buy and sell orders, which originate from all sources and are channeled into the exchange-trading floor for execution, are actually the ones to determine the prices. These buy and sell orders are translated into actual purchases and sales on the trading floor.

The major function of the futures market is the transfer of risk, and increased liquidity between traders with different risk and time preferences, for instance from a hedger to a speculator. Futures trading is a method used to eliminate or minimize risks that occur when the prices in the market fluctuates.

Futures contracts are exchange-traded derivatives. A futures contract is traded on a futures exchange, to buy or sell a certain underlying instrument at a certain date in the future, at a pre-set price. Futures contracts are basically for assumption or hedging.

There are two groups of futures traders: the hedgers, who are interested in the underlying commodity and are seeking to hedge out the risk of changes in price; and the speculators, who are interested in making a profit by predicting market moves and buying a commodity "on paper" for which they have no practical use. For example, commodities in the market can be bought today at today's price, with the speculation of selling them at a higher price in the future.

On the other hand, hedging protects against fluctuations in market prices. This protection is made by allowing the risks of price changes to be transferred to professional risk takers. For instance, a manufacturer can protect itself from price increases in raw materials they need by hedging in the futures market.

Hedging has two types, hedge sale and hedge purchase. A person can buy a commodity and sell futures at the same quantity as protection against fluctuation in prices when he is still holding the stock.

You might think that this is gambling, but the fact is that speculation refers to the condition of a legitimate enterprise based on the current condition of the market trends. However, it is very risky for inexperienced futures traders who try to predict the market and speculate without having enough resources or experience.

Since the prices are distributed via telecommunications network and the internet, it makes online futures trading very convenient and simple for an individual. Nowadays many brokers offer their services for trading commodity futures online. Because more risk is involved in online futures trading than stock trading, you must judge for yourself whether or not it is worth the added risk of trading commodity futures online.

Keep in mind that an investment in futures can result in losses. Past performance results does not necessarily indicate future performance results.

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For more on Futures Trading visit Susan also enjoys writing at Health and Fitness


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