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Background of Futures Trading

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1Background of Futures Trading Empty Background of Futures Trading Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:34 pm


Global Moderator

For many years futures trading has been considered either too risky or too sophisticated for the average
Most myths are born of ignorance, and the futures myth is no exception. For all too long, futures
trading was either ignored or shunned in economics texts and, as a consequence, the general public
was not educated in the basics of futures. No informed choice could, therefore, be made.
Investments in securities, stocks, bonds and even stock options, however, received considerable
attention. It is generally believed that trading in stocks has more historical justification and, therefore,
more value in an economic education.
There are, in addition, a number of other reasons for the historically diminutive role of futures trading,
few of which are valid.
Generally, objections to futures trading are based on either partial or distorted facts. So, before launching
into an explanation of precisely what futures trading is, it may be necessary to clear the decks of any
misconceptions you may hold.
First, let’s examine some of the standard objections to futures trading, so that we may have a relatively
clean slate upon which to write the new learning.

Let’s take a look at a few of these misconceptions.

1. “You Can Lose All You’ve Invested, or More, if You Trade in Futures.”
This is true. However, the key word is invested. Trading futures should in no way, shape or form be considered an investment. As a speculation, however, the rules of the game become distinctly different -- high risk is necessary for high reward.Nevertheless, even ‘high risk’ does not mean that the common sense rules of good
trading and money management (to be taught in this course) should be ignored.It has been demonstrated clearly that a balanced investment portfolio consisting both of stocks and futures performs better, on average, than a portfolio consisting exclusively of stocks.
2. “Trading in Futures is a Gamble.”
This is another misconception. In fact, trading in futures is, technically and fundamentally, no different from trading in stocks.The odds of being right or wrong are essentially similar. However, due to lower margins, the odds of making money in futures are probably lower than those of making money in stocks.Ultimately, though, the possible percentage return in futures trading is considerably greater than the potential return in stocks. Futures trading is, therefore, no more of a gamble than trading in stocks.Carefully and closely following the rules of successful futures trading will help reduce the risk and gamble.
3. “Futures Trading is for Insiders. It’s a Rigged Game.”(Markets are Manipulated.)
These two misconceptions go hand in hand.There is probably less inside information available in futures than there is in the stock market. The United States Department of Agriculture, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association have all imposed very stringent limits on the total number of positions a trader may hold.They monitor the brokerage industry and large trader transactions very closely. Important government information is guarded and kept strictly secret until the scheduled release date and time.In this way, the markets can function freely and with minimal effects of insider information.In fact, most markets cannot be manipulated for other than perhaps very brief periods of time. This is because they are too complex and diverse for any one individual or group to affect prices over the long run.Unavoidably, some traders will always have an edge based on inside information, but success in the futures market is very possible without access to such information.
4. “Trading in Futures Serves No Economic Purpose.It’s a Gamble, Pure Speculation.”
This popular misconception couldn’t be farther from the truth. The futures markets serve to stabilize prices. In fact, we often forget that futures markets in the U.S. were originally created to protect the farmer from volatile price moves.In today’s markets this same price protection is needed by farmers, food companies,banks and many other large institutions, often referred to as ‘hedgers.’ The speculators provide liquidity and are often willing to take market positions when prices are fluctuating significantly due to news, weather, crop conditions, etc. This stabilizes prices by providing additional buyers and sellers to buffer extreme moves.
Were it not for the speculator, prices would move more viciously, and the hedgers could not enter and exit the market as efficiently. And, were it not for speculators buying and selling regardless of price levels, the markets would be subject to great volatility.
Supplies would stand a good chance of being disrupted and unstable. One probable
reason for the Soviet Union’s demise was its lack of a delivery and exchange system for
its commodities. A functional futures market would have contributed considerable
stability to its economic system while also reducing producer and consumer dissatisfaction.
5. “Futures Trading is Only for the Short Term.”
This is also incorrect. Futures trading can be either long term, intermediate term, and/or short term depending upon the orientation of the trader.In fact, some of the most successful futures traders -- referred to as ‘position traders’ hold their positions for an intermediate- to long-term period of time. The particular time horizon or time frame that a trader adopts is an individual choice, which does not necessarily have to be short term to be prosperous.Many other misconceptions and misunderstandings plague futures trading -- all bred out of either partial information or ignorance.One-by-one, these myths will be unveiled and corrected as your understanding of futures markets and futures trading increases. Now that a few of the major myths have been revealed, we can move on to the basics of futures trading.

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2Background of Futures Trading Empty Evolution of the Futures Markets Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:58 pm


Global Moderator

Trading in futures had its origin in the development of grain trading in the United States in the
The Japanese futures exchange began over a hundred years earlier than it did in the U.S. Their methods
of trading in the silk and rice markets, as well as the English methods of trading iron warrants, were
precedents to the United States futures markets.
The practice of futures trading in the United States evolved naturally from the need to protect against
volatile price moves in physical grain products. Chicago took the leading role as the center of grain
futures trading.
The Midwest is the heart of a rich and vast agricultural region and, since Chicago is strategically
situated as a shipping center, it was a natural site for grain trading. The Mississippi River and its
tributaries were available to move grain and later, in conjunction with the railroads, commerce in the
grain markets flourished.
The Chicago Board of Trade was organized in 1848 and actually began trading about 1859. It was
formed to meet the needs of producers (farmers) and exporters in order to systematically manage their
risk and exposure to unknown elements such as weather, political events and economic uncertainty.
The concept of hedging, upon which the futures markets are based, became widely used and continues
today to serve as a valuable tool for risk management.

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3Background of Futures Trading Empty What Is Hedging? Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:04 pm


Global Moderator

The concept of hedging is based upon the assumption that movement in cash and futures prices will
parallel each other in movement after due allowance has been made for any seasonal or other trend in
the cash market.
In essence, the goal of the hedger is to lock in an approximate future price in order to eliminate his risk
of exposure to interim price fluctuations. The best way to understand hedging and the futures market
is by example. I will assume that you have no understanding of the futures market.
Suppose You are a Grain Farmer
It becomes hot and dry. Rain is scarce in most parts of the country, and some of the large
grain-processing firms become concerned about what will happen to corn prices several months in the
future as the heat and drought damage take their toll on the crop.In your area however, weather is fine. You grow corn. Your crop has been planted and the summer has not been too bad and moisture has been sufficient. Your crops are quite good, in fact.

The grain-processing concerns such as large baking companies, animal feed manufacturers, food
processors, vegetable oil producers and other related concerns begin to buy corn from farmers and
grain firms who have it in storage from previous years. Their buying is considerable due to their
immense needs. Simple economics tells us that the price of corn will rise as the supply falls.
Prices begin to rise dramatically in what is called the ‘cash market.’ This is the immediate or day-today
market. Another term for the cash market is the ‘spot market.’ It is so termed because it refers to
transactions made on the spot, that is, for immediate delivery, not for delivery at some point in the
Assume that you know the cost of production for your corn. In other words, you’ve taken into
consideration your fertilizer, fuel, land, labor and additional costs. You conclude that it costs you
$1.85 to produce each bushel of corn.
Your call to the local grain terminal -- where cash corn is bought and sold -- tells you that today cash
corn is selling for $3.25 per bushel. You know that only two weeks ago it was at $3.00 per bushel and
three months ago it was going for $2.75.
You know you will be producing over 50,000 bushels of corn this year and, as a consequence, the price
difference between what the market was several months ago and today’s price is considerable. In fact,
it runs into thousands of dollars.

What are Your Options?
You know that by the time your crop has been harvested, prices may be back down again.
What could force prices back down?
Many things could happen. The government could release grain from its reserves to drive prices down;
foreign production could be larger than expected making the U.S. crop reduction less important or
weather could improve significantly, lessening the impact of the problem. Demand could decline and
the grain companies might sell from some of the supplies they’ve accumulated.
Regardless of what actually happens, you’ve decided that you want to sell your crop at the current

You Can Do Either of Two Things

· You can enter into a forward contract with a grain firm.
This contract is made between you and a grain processor or elevator. (These firms are
known as ‘commercials’.)
They will quote you a price for your crop to be delivered to them at some point in the
future, usually shortly after harvest. Often, their price is not as high as the market’s
current trading level. Or,
· As an alternative, you could sell your crop on the futures market.
The futures markets are organized exchanges or marketplaces where many individuals
congregate for the purpose of buying and selling contracts in given markets for future
delivery and/or for speculation.

Prices there will be relatively free of manipulation by large commercial interests, which may have almost complete control over what you will be paid in your hometown area for your crop. Provided your corn meets the proper exchange specifications, you can sell it in advance on the futures exchange.You will not get your money until the crop is delivered to the buyer, but the price you get will be locked in. Regardless of where the price goes thereafter you will be guaranteed the price at which you sold your crop.

You Could Win or Lose
If the cash market is higher by the time the crop is ready, you will not make as much as you might have.If the price is lower, then you are fortunate to have sold prior to the decline.Of course, you have the option of doing nothing, hoping that corn will be much higher at some point in the future.The essence of the futures market vehicle is, its use as a tool by which the producer and end-user can hedge or protect profits.
Futures are ideal hedges against rising or falling prices.

What’s in it for the Players?
Who takes the other side of the futures transaction and why? In other words:
· Who will buy the grain from you?
· Why will they buy it?
· What will they do with it?
· How will they sell it if they change their mind?

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