10 May What are Futures?
In the United States, trading futures began in the mid-19th century with the
establishment of central grain markets where farmers could sell their products
either for immediate delivery, also called the spot or cash market, or for forward
delivery. These forward contracts were private contracts between buyers and
sellers and became the forerunner of today’s exchange-traded futures contracts.
Both forward contracts and futures contracts are legal agreements to buy or sell
an asset on a specific date or during a specific month. Where forward contracts
are negotiated directly between a buyer and a seller and settlement terms may
vary from contract to contract, a futures contract is facilitated through a futures
exchange and is standardized according to quality, quantity, delivery time and
place. The only remaining variable is price, which is discovered through an
auction-like process that occurs on the Exchange trading floor or via CME Globex,
CME Group’s electronic trading platform.
Learn more about trading futures in A Traders Guide to Futures from the CME here.