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DEFINITION of 'Default'

1. The failure to promptly pay interest or principal when due. Default occurs when a debtor is unable to meet the legal obligation of debt repayment. Borrowers may default when they are unable to make the required payment or are unwilling to honor the debt.

2. The failure to perform on a futures contract as required by an exchange.

BREAKING DOWN 'Default'

1. Defaulting on a debt obligation can place a company or individual in financial trouble. The lender will see a default as a sign that the borrower is not likely to make future payments. For example, if Company XYZ is unable to make a coupon payment on its bonds, the bondholders would place XYZ in bankruptcy. This would give the company an opportunity to claim XYZ's assets as a form of repayment for the debt.

2. Defaulting on a futures contract occurs when one party does not fulfill the obligations set forth by the agreement. The default usually involves not settling the contract by the required date. A person in the short position will default if he or she fails to deliver the goods at the end of the contract. The long position defaults when payment is not provided by the settlement date.

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