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The spot rate is the immediate purchase price posted on exchanges for purchasing commodities, currency and securities. It’s the market price at the moment of a quote. The markets where spot rates are determined are very fluid and dynamic, so spot rates change often as the markets rise and fall.

In the currency markets, the spot rate is sometimes called the benchmark rate, straightforward rate or outright rate.  The currency spot rate is affected by the needs of businesses and individuals transacting in foreign currency, as well as foreign currency traders.

For commodities such as copper, silver, gold, wheat, and pork bellies, spot rates are quoted by reporting agencies such as Bloomberg and Morningstar. Commodity spot rates are most affected by the supply and demand for the particular commodity. 

In the bond markets, the spot rate is based on the zero coupon rate.

The general rule worldwide is that payment of a spot price must occur within two business days of the trade date.  This date of settlement is called, appropriately, the settlement date.  Even if the spot rate changes between the trade date and the settlement date, the price paid is still the original spot price on the trade date.

Spot rates are also used to determine future rates.  Theoretically, the future rate can be determined if the spot rate, risk-free rate and time to maturity are known. 

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