What is the difference between trading currency futures and spot FX?

By Matt Lee AAA
A:

The forex market is a very large market with many different features, advantages and pitfalls. Forex investors may engage in currency futures as well as trade in the spot forex market. The difference between these two investment options is very subtle, but worth noting.

A currency futures contract is a legally binding contract that obligates the two parties involved to trade a particular amount of a currency pair at a predetermined price (the stated exchange rate) at some point in the future. Assuming that the seller does not prematurely close out the position, he or she can either own the currency at the time the future is written, or may "gamble" that the currency will be cheaper in the spot market some time before the settlement date.

With the spot FX, the underlying currencies are physically exchanged following the settlement date. In general, any spot market involves the actual exchange of the underlying asset; this is most common in commodities markets. For example, whenever someone goes to a bank to exchange currencies, that person is participating in the forex spot market.

The main difference between currency futures and spot FX is when the trading price is determined and when the physical exchange of the currency pair takes place. With currency futures, the price is determined when the contract is signed and the currency pair is exchanged on the delivery date, which is usually some time in the distant future. In the spot FX, the price is also determined at the point of trade, but the physical exchange of the currency pair takes place right at the point of trade or within a short period of time thereafter. However, it is important to note that most participants in the futures markets are speculators who usually close out their positions before the date of settlement and, therefore, most contracts do not tend to last until the date of delivery.

For further reading, see Getting Started In Foreign Exchange Futures, Getting Started In Forex Options and Using Options Tools To Trade Foreign-Exchange Spot.

RELATED FAQS

  1. What are common strategies traders implement when identifying a Bearish Engulfing ...

    Learn how to spot a bearish engulfing pattern, and learn some of the trading strategies you can implement to take advantage ...
  2. What's the best way to play backwardation in the futures market?

    Backwardation is a market condition in which a futures contract far from its delivery date is trading at a lower price than ...
  3. Is there ever a bad time to invest in gold?

    Gold has been a stellar performer so far in this millennium, having racked up 11 straight years of gains since 2000 and appreciating ...
  4. How can I invest in a foreign exchange market?

    The foreign exchange market, also called the currency market or forex (FX), is the world's largest financial market, accounting ...
RELATED TERMS
  1. ICE LIBOR

    See LIBOR
  2. WM/Reuters Benchmark Rates

    Spot and forward foreign exchange rates that are used as standard ...
  3. Cash-And-Carry Trade

    A trading strategy in which an investor buys a long position ...
  4. Exchange Rate

    The price of a nation’s currency in terms of another currency. ...
  5. ISDA Master Agreement

    A standard agreement used in over-the-counter derivatives transactions.
  6. Open Position Ratio

    The percentage of open positions held for major currency pairs ...
Related Articles
  1. Stock Safety: Top 3 Ways to Limit Your ...
    Options & Futures

    Stock Safety: Top 3 Ways to Limit Your ...

  2. Can You Buy Stock Insurace? 3 Strategies ...
    Options & Futures

    Can You Buy Stock Insurace? 3 Strategies ...

  3. How The Price Of Stock Futures Is Calculated
    Options & Futures

    How The Price Of Stock Futures Is Calculated

  4. Futures, Derivatives and Liquidity: ...
    Options & Futures

    Futures, Derivatives and Liquidity: ...

  5. All About Liquid Commodities
    Options & Futures

    All About Liquid Commodities

Trading Center