Market Strength: S&P 500 Futures
  1. Market Strength: Introduction
  2. Market Strength: S&P 500 Futures
  3. Market Strength: Advancers to Decliners
  4. Market Strength: Relative Strength Index and Arms
  5. Market Strength: Oil and Bonds
  6. Market Strength: Conclusion

Market Strength: S&P 500 Futures

If you've ever watched financial television before or after the markets open you will probably notice that they often quote the latest index futures price on the "bug" in the bottom corner. The futures market is an important concept and can be used to gauge the trend of the market.

There are two types of futures contracts, financial and commodities. No matter which type of contract you buy the basic premise is the same. The buyer of the contract agrees to deliver the product (or cash for financial futures) at the contract price on the expiry date. A contract can be on anything from corn, wheat, oil or, in our case, a stock index. It should be noted that a majority of futures contracts get "closed out" before the delivery date and so no physical delivery actually takes place.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index (S&P 500) contains many of the largest companies in the world, so it only makes sense that movement in the direction of the S&P futures is one of the best indicators of overall short-term market direction (Note: The Nasdaq futures are considered a good indicator of technology stocks). The word futures might make this indicator sound confusing but it really isn't. If S&P futures are up, it's an indication that there is upward pressure on the market and the stock market will tend to rise. On the other hand, if S&P futures are down, it's a sign that there is downward pressure on the market and it will likely trend lower.

This rise or decline in the futures contract is usually calculated as a change from fair value. Fair value is the equilibrium price for a futures contract. This is equal to the spot price after taking into account compounded interest and dividends lost because the investor owns the futures contract rather than the physical stocks. This price is determined over the period of the futures contract.

Part of the reason that the markets follow the trend of futures contracts is because of arbitrageurs. An arbitrageur is someone who simultaneously purchases and sells a security (or index) in order to profit from a differential in the price, usually on different exchanges or marketplaces. For S&P futures contracts here is what happens: Suppose the futures contract is trading above fair value (higher), before the market is about to open. An arbitrageur will sell (short) the S&P futures contract and go long (buy) on the underlying stocks within the S&P 500 index. Therefore, the stock prices will increase until the S&P 500 index reaches fair value with S&P futures contract. This sounds like a lot of work but really isn't because of program trading. Using software that monitors both a stock index and futures contracts on the index, traders can be notified when there is a larger than normal gap. This strategy is commonly referred to as index arbitrage.

The main reason that S&P futures are so popular for detecting strength is because this contract trades 24 hours a day on financial exchanges around the world. It allows traders and brokers to gauge the futures level before the actual stock markets open for trading which gives a sense of where the market is likely trend at the start of trading.

Market Strength: Advancers to Decliners

  1. Market Strength: Introduction
  2. Market Strength: S&P 500 Futures
  3. Market Strength: Advancers to Decliners
  4. Market Strength: Relative Strength Index and Arms
  5. Market Strength: Oil and Bonds
  6. Market Strength: Conclusion
  1. Percentage Change

    Percentage change is a simple mathematical concept that represents ...
  2. Rule Of 72

    A shortcut to estimate the number of years required to double ...
  3. Laissez Faire

    An economic theory from the 18th century that is strongly opposed ...
  4. Put-Call Parity

    A principle that defines the relationship between the price of ...
  5. Qualitative Analysis

    Securities analysis that uses subjective judgment based on nonquantifiable ...
  6. Alpha

    Alpha is used in finance to represent two things: 1. a measure ...
  1. What does low working capital say about a company's financial prospects?

    When a company has low working capital, it can mean one of two things. In most cases, low working capital means the business ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do nonprofit organizations have working capital?

    Nonprofit organizations continuously face debate over how much money they bring in that is kept in reserve. These financial ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can a company's working capital turnover ratio be negative?

    A company's working capital turnover ratio can be negative when a company's current liabilities exceed its current assets. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does working capital measure liquidity?

    Working capital is a commonly used metric, not only for a company’s liquidity but also for its operational efficiency and ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I read and analyze an income statement?

    The income statement, also known as the profit and loss (P&L) statement, is the financial statement that depicts the ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can working capital be too high?

    A company's working capital ratio can be too high in the sense that an excessively high ratio is generally considered an ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  2. Bullish Engulfing Pattern

    A chart pattern that forms when a small black candlestick is followed by a large white candlestick that completely eclipses ...
  3. Cyber Monday

    An expression used in online retailing to describe the Monday following U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday is generally ...
  4. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  5. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
Trading Center