Futures Contract

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What is a 'Futures Contract'

A futures contract is a contractual agreement, generally made on the trading floor of a futures exchange, to buy or sell a particular commodity or financial instrument at a pre-determined price in the future. Futures contracts detail the quality and quantity of the underlying asset; they are standardized to facilitate trading on a futures exchange. Some futures contracts may call for physical delivery of the asset, while others are settled in cash.

BREAKING DOWN 'Futures Contract'

The terms "futures contract" and "futures" refer to essentially the same thing. For example, you might hear somebody say they bought "oil futures", which means the same thing as "oil futures contract". If you want to get really specific, you could say that a futures contract refers only to the specific characteristics of the underlying asset, while "futures" is more general and can also refer to the overall market as in: "He's a futures trader."

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