What Are the Risks of Perpetual Futures?

by Jennifer

Perpetual futures are a popular financial instrument in the cryptocurrency market, known for their unique characteristics and high leverage potential. They are a type of futures contract without an expiration date, allowing traders to hold positions indefinitely. While perpetual futures offer numerous opportunities for profit, they also come with significant risks that traders need to understand thoroughly. This article delves into the intricacies of perpetual futures, explores the various risks associated with them, and provides strategies for mitigating these risks.

Overview of Perpetual Futures

Definition and Characteristics

Perpetual futures are derivatives that allow traders to speculate on the price of an underlying asset without the need to own the asset itself. Unlike traditional futures contracts, which have a set expiration date, perpetual futures can be held indefinitely. This feature makes them particularly attractive in the volatile world of cryptocurrency trading.


Key characteristics of perpetual futures include:


No Expiry Date: Traders can hold their positions as long as they wish, provided they maintain the required margin.

High Leverage: Perpetual futures often offer high leverage, enabling traders to control large positions with a relatively small amount of capital.

Funding Mechanism: To keep the price of the perpetual futures contract close to the spot price of the underlying asset, an interest-like fee known as the funding rate is exchanged between long and short positions.

Popular Platforms

Several cryptocurrency exchanges offer perpetual futures trading, including:

Binance: Known for its user-friendly interface and wide range of trading pairs.

BitMEX: One of the pioneers in perpetual futures trading, offering high leverage and advanced trading tools.

Bybit: Popular for its low-latency trading platform and robust security measures.

Risks of Perpetual Futures

While perpetual futures offer the potential for significant gains, they also pose several risks. Understanding these risks is crucial for any trader looking to engage in perpetual futures trading.

Market Volatility

The cryptocurrency market is notorious for its extreme volatility. Prices can fluctuate dramatically within a short period, leading to substantial gains or losses. This volatility is magnified when trading perpetual futures due to the high leverage involved.

Impact of Volatility

1. Margin Calls and Liquidation: High volatility can quickly lead to margin calls, where the trader must deposit additional funds to maintain their position. If the margin requirement is not met, the position may be liquidated at a loss.

2. Price Slippage: Rapid price movements can cause slippage, where the executed price of a trade differs from the expected price. This can exacerbate losses, especially in highly leveraged positions.

Leverage Risk

Leverage is a double-edged sword in perpetual futures trading. While it amplifies potential profits, it also magnifies potential losses. A small adverse price movement can wipe out a trader’s initial margin and lead to significant financial loss.

Example of Leverage Impact

Consider a trader using 20x leverage on a $1,000 position. A mere 5% price drop in the underlying asset would result in a 100% loss of the initial margin ($1,000), leading to liquidation.

Funding Rate Risk

The funding rate mechanism ensures that the price of perpetual futures stays close to the underlying asset’s spot price. However, the funding rate can be unpredictable and can fluctuate based on market conditions.

Implications of Funding Rates

1. Additional Costs: Positive or negative funding rates can add to the cost of holding a position. For instance, if the funding rate is positive, traders with long positions must pay a fee to those with short positions.

2. Influence on Trading Strategy: Constantly changing funding rates can impact a trader’s strategy, especially for long-term positions. Traders must account for these costs when planning their trades.

Liquidity Risk

Liquidity refers to the ability to buy or sell an asset without causing significant price movement. In the context of perpetual futures, liquidity risk can arise if there are not enough buyers or sellers in the market.

Consequences of Low Liquidity

1. Wider Spreads: Low liquidity can lead to wider bid-ask spreads, increasing the cost of entering and exiting positions.

2. Difficulty in Exiting Positions: In a highly volatile market, liquidity can dry up quickly, making it challenging to close positions at desired prices. This can lead to forced liquidations at unfavorable prices.

Counterparty Risk

Perpetual futures are typically traded on centralized exchanges, which means traders are exposed to the risk of the exchange defaulting or experiencing operational issues.

Potential Issues

1. Exchange Hacks: Cryptocurrency exchanges are prime targets for hackers. A successful attack can result in the loss of user funds.

2. Regulatory Changes: Changes in regulations can impact the operation of exchanges, potentially leading to the suspension of trading or other unforeseen issues.

3. Operational Failures: Technical glitches, system outages, or poor management practices can also pose risks to traders.

Psychological Risk

Trading perpetual futures can be stressful and requires a high level of emotional discipline. The combination of high leverage, market volatility, and potential for significant losses can take a toll on a trader’s mental well-being.

Psychological Challenges

1. Overtrading: The temptation to recoup losses or chase gains can lead to overtrading, resulting in further financial loss.

2. Stress and Anxiety: Constant monitoring of volatile markets can cause stress and anxiety, impacting decision-making abilities.

See Also: Where Can I Find Futures?

3. Impaired Judgment: Emotional reactions to market movements can lead to impulsive decisions, deviating from well-thought-out trading plans.

Mitigating the Risks of Perpetual Futures

While the risks of perpetual futures are significant, they can be managed with proper strategies and risk management practices. Here are some steps traders can take to mitigate these risks.

Risk Management Strategies

1. Use Appropriate Leverage: Traders should use leverage cautiously and only to the extent that they can afford to lose. Lower leverage can reduce the risk of liquidation.

2. Set Stop-Loss Orders: Stop-loss orders can help limit losses by automatically closing positions at predefined price levels. This can prevent significant financial loss in volatile markets.

3. Diversify Investments: Diversifying investments across different assets and trading instruments can reduce the impact of adverse price movements in a single market.

Monitor Funding Rates

Traders should keep an eye on funding rates and factor them into their trading strategies. Understanding the cost of holding positions and adjusting strategies accordingly can help manage this risk.

Ensure Adequate Liquidity

Trading on exchanges with high liquidity can reduce the risk of price slippage and ensure smoother entry and exit from positions. Additionally, traders should avoid trading during periods of low market activity.

Conduct Thorough Research

Before engaging in perpetual futures trading, traders should conduct thorough research on the market, the underlying asset, and the specific contract they intend to trade. Understanding market dynamics and staying informed about news and events can provide an edge in trading.

Use Reputable Exchanges

Choosing reputable and well-secured exchanges can mitigate counterparty risk. Traders should look for exchanges with strong security measures, transparent operations, and good track records.

Maintain Emotional Discipline

Developing emotional discipline and a solid trading plan is crucial for success in perpetual futures trading. Traders should:

1. Stick to the Plan: Follow a well-defined trading plan and avoid impulsive decisions based on emotions.

2. Take Breaks: Regular breaks can help maintain mental clarity and prevent burnout.

3. Seek Support: Joining trading communities or seeking mentorship can provide support and enhance trading skills.


Perpetual futures offer significant opportunities for profit in the dynamic world of cryptocurrency trading. However, they come with a range of risks, including market volatility, leverage risk, funding rate risk, liquidity risk, counterparty risk, and psychological challenges. By understanding these risks and implementing effective risk management strategies, traders can navigate the complexities of perpetual futures trading and increase their chances of success. Remember, informed and disciplined trading is the key to managing the inherent risks and achieving long-term profitability in the volatile cryptocurrency markets.

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