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Commodities Contract

February 02
18:57 2011

Commodities trading

Spot trading

Spot trading is any transaction where delivery either takes place immediately, or with a minimum lag between the trade and delivery due to technical constraints. Spot trading normally involves visual inspection of the commodity or a sample of the commodity, and is carried out in markets such as wholesale markets. Commodity markets, on the other hand, require the existence of agreed standards so that trades can be made without visual inspection.

Forward contracts

A forward contract is an agreement between two parties to exchange at some fixed future date a given quantity of a commodity for a price defined today. The fixed price today is known as the forward price.

Futures contracts

A futures contract has the same general features as a forward contract but is transacted through a futures exchange.

Commodity and futures contracts are based on what’s termed forward contracts. Early on these forward contracts — agreements to buy now, pay and deliver later — were used as a way of getting products from producer to the consumer. These typically were only for food and agricultural products. Forward contracts have evolved and have been standardized into what we know today as futures contracts. Although more complex today, early forward contracts for example, were used for rice in seventeenth century Japan. Modern forward, or futures agreements, began in Chicago in the 1840s, with the appearance of the railroads. Chicago, being centrally located, emerged as the hub between Midwestern farmers and producers and the east coast consumer population centers.

In essence, a futures contract is a standardized forward contract in which the buyer and the seller accept the terms in regards to product, grade, quantity and location and are only free to negotiate the price.

Hedging

Hedging, a common (and sometimes mandatory) practice of farming cooperatives, insures against a poor harvest by purchasing futures contracts in the same commodity. If the cooperative has significantly less of its product to sell due to weather or insects, it makes up for that loss with a profit on the markets, since the overall supply of the crop is short everywhere that suffered the same conditions.

Whole developing nations may be especially vulnerable, and even their currency tends to be tied to the price of those particular commodity items until it manages to be a fully developed nation. For example, one could see the nominally fiat money of Cuba as being tied to sugar prices, since a lack of hard currency paying for sugar means less foreign goods per peso in Cuba itself. In effect, Cuba needs a hedge against a drop in sugar prices, if it wishes to maintain a stable quality of life for its citizens.

Delivery and condition guarantees

In addition, delivery day, method of settlement and delivery point must all be specified. Typically, trading must end two (or more) business days prior to the delivery day, so that the routing of the shipment can be finalized via ship or rail, and payment can be settled when the contract arrives at any delivery point.

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