How does future and option works: A Comprehensive Guide

by Jennifer

Futures and options are sophisticated financial instruments used by investors and traders to hedge, speculate, and manage risk in the world of finance. They play a crucial role in the global financial markets, allowing participants to take positions on various assets without owning them physically.

Understanding the Basics of Futures and Options

Before diving into the intricacies of futures and options, let’s establish a clear understanding of what these financial instruments are:


Futures Contracts: A futures contract is a standardized agreement between two parties to buy or sell a specific quantity of an underlying asset at a predetermined price on a future date. These contracts are traded on organized exchanges and are subject to margin requirements.


Options Contracts: An options contract gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call option) or sell (put option) a specific quantity of an underlying asset at a predetermined price (strike price) on or before a specified expiration date. Unlike futures, options provide flexibility, allowing the holder to choose whether or not to exercise the contract.

Key Characteristics of Futures Contracts

Standardization: Futures contracts are highly standardized. They specify the quantity and quality of the underlying asset, the delivery date, and the method of settlement.

Leverage: Futures contracts are leveraged instruments, meaning that traders are required to deposit a fraction of the contract’s value as margin. This allows for a potentially significant exposure to the underlying asset with a relatively small upfront capital requirement.

Mark-to-Market: Futures contracts are marked to market daily, which means that the gains or losses on the contract are settled daily. This ensures that both parties maintain the required margin levels and reduces the risk of default.

No Choice of Delivery: In most cases, futures contracts result in the physical delivery of the underlying asset. However, most traders do not intend to take physical delivery but rather aim to profit from price movements.

Key Characteristics of Options Contracts

Flexibility: Options provide flexibility to the holder. They can choose whether or not to exercise the contract, depending on market conditions. This feature makes options versatile for a wide range of strategies.

Expiration Date: Options contracts have a specified expiration date, after which they become worthless. This date is a critical component as it defines the timeframe within which the contract can be exercised.

Strike Price: The strike price is the price at which the underlying asset can be bought or sold. It is predetermined when the option contract is created and remains fixed until expiration.

Premium: The buyer of an options contract pays a premium to the seller. This premium represents the cost of the option and is typically the maximum loss for the option buyer.

How Futures Work

Futures contracts are based on the principle of “locking in” the price of an asset for a future date. Here’s how they work:

Initial Agreement: Two parties, a buyer and a seller, enter into a futures contract. The buyer agrees to purchase the underlying asset, and the seller agrees to provide it.

Standardization: The terms of the contract, including the quantity, quality, and delivery date, are standardized and set by the exchange on which the contract is traded.

Margin Requirement: Both the buyer and the seller are required to deposit an initial margin, which is typically a small percentage of the contract’s value. This margin acts as collateral.

Mark-to-Market: The contract’s value is marked to market daily. If the contract moves against one party, they are required to add more margin to cover potential losses. Conversely, if the contract moves in their favor, they may receive margin back.

Settlement: At the contract’s expiration, there are typically two ways to settle: physical delivery or cash settlement. Physical delivery involves the transfer of the underlying asset, while cash settlement involves the payment of the contract’s value in cash.

Profit and Loss: The profit or loss on a futures contract is determined by the difference between the contract price and the market price at the time of settlement.

Futures contracts are widely used by various market participants, including speculators, hedgers, and arbitrageurs. Speculators aim to profit from price movements, while hedgers use futures to protect against adverse price movements in the underlying asset. Arbitrageurs seek to exploit price differences between the futures market and the underlying asset market.

How Options Work

Options provide the holder with the right to buy (call option) or sell (put option) an underlying asset at a predetermined price. Let’s delve into how options

contracts work:

Creation of an Options Contract: An options contract is created when a buyer (holder) and a seller (writer) agree on the terms of the option. The buyer pays a premium to the seller for this privilege.

Flexibility: The buyer of an options contract can choose to exercise it or let it expire. This decision depends on market conditions and the potential for profit.

Expiration Date: Every options contract has an expiration date. It is the final date on which the option can be exercised. Once the option expires, it becomes worthless.

Strike Price: The options contract specifies the strike price, which is the price at which the underlying asset can be bought (in the case of a call option) or sold (in the case of a put option).

Premium Payment: The premium is the price the buyer pays to the seller for the option. It is the maximum financial risk for the option holder.

Profit Potential: The profit for the option holder is determined by the difference between the market price of the underlying asset and the strike price, minus the premium paid. The profit is unlimited for call options and limited to the strike price minus the premium for put options.

Options contracts are used for a wide range of strategies, including hedging, speculation, and income generation. Traders use call options to profit from rising prices and put options to profit from falling prices. Hedgers often use options to protect against adverse price movements in the underlying asset. Options are also a vital component of complex strategies, such as straddles and spreads.

Risk and Reward in Futures and Options Trading

Trading futures and options can be lucrative, but it also comes with inherent risks. It’s essential to understand the risk-reward profile of these financial instruments before participating in the market.

Futures Contracts:

Leverage: Futures contracts offer significant leverage, which can amplify both gains and losses.

Mark-to-Market: The daily mark-to-market process can result in frequent margin calls, requiring traders to deposit additional funds to cover losses.

Default Risk: There is a risk of default if one party fails to meet its obligations, which can lead to significant losses.

Market Risk: Futures contracts are exposed to market volatility, and adverse price movements can result in substantial losses.

Unlimited Losses: Unlike options, futures contracts have unlimited loss potential, as there is no limit to how much the market price can move against a trader.

Options Contracts:

Limited Risk: The maximum loss for an options holder is limited to the premium paid. This provides a degree of risk control.

Premium Cost: The premium acts as the maximum loss for options holders. While it limits losses, it also represents an upfront cost.

Profit Potential: The profit potential for options holders is typically higher than the premium paid, making options an attractive choice for speculators.

Market Risk: Options holders are exposed to market risk, and the value of the option can fluctuate with changes in the underlying asset’s price.

Expiration Risk: Options expire, and if the market does not move in the desired direction before expiration, the option can become worthless.

Strategies in Futures and Options Trading

Both futures and options offer a wide array of trading strategies, each with its unique characteristics. Let’s explore some common strategies for each:

Futures Trading Strategies:

Speculation: Traders speculate on the future price movements of the underlying asset. They buy futures contracts if they anticipate rising prices or sell them if they expect prices to fall.

Hedging: Hedgers use futures contracts to protect against adverse price movements. For example, a farmer may sell corn futures to lock in a price for their upcoming harvest.

Arbitrage: Arbitrageurs exploit price differences between related assets in different markets. They simultaneously buy low and sell high to profit from price disparities.

Spread Trading: Spread traders take positions in two or more futures contracts to profit from price differentials between them. Calendar spreads and intercommodity spreads are common examples.

Options Trading Strategies:

Covered Call: Investors who own the underlying asset can generate income by selling call options. This strategy provides some downside protection.

Protective Put: Investors who own the underlying asset can buy put options to protect against price declines. This strategy acts as insurance.

Straddle: Traders use a straddle strategy by simultaneously buying a call option and a put option with the same strike price and expiration. It profits from significant price movement in either direction.

Credit Spreads: These strategies involve simultaneously selling and buying options of the same type (calls or puts) with different strike prices. Credit spreads generate upfront premiums and have limited risk.

Butterfly Spread: Butterfly spreads involve a combination of call and put options with different strike prices. They are used to profit from low volatility.

Managing Risk in Futures and Options Trading

Risk management is a critical aspect of trading futures and options. Here are some key risk management practices:

Diversification: Spread risk by trading a variety of assets or using different strategies.

Stop-Loss Orders: Implement stop-loss orders to limit potential losses by automatically exiting a trade when a predetermined price level is reached.

Use of Options: Options can be used to hedge against adverse price movements in futures positions. For example, a futures trader can buy a put option to limit potential losses.

Position Sizing: Determine the appropriate position size based on your risk tolerance and the size of your trading account.

Risk-Reward Ratio: Assess the risk-reward ratio for each trade. Ensure that potential rewards justify the risks involved.

Continuous Monitoring: Keep a close eye on market conditions and the performance of your positions. Be prepared to make adjustments when necessary.

Regulation and Oversight

Futures and options markets are subject to regulation and oversight to maintain transparency and protect market participants. In the United States, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) oversees the futures and options markets. Exchanges and brokerage firms must adhere to regulatory standards to ensure fair and transparent trading.

In addition to regulatory oversight, exchanges have established risk management mechanisms to prevent excessive market volatility. Circuit breakers and daily price limits are common tools used to stabilize markets in the face of extreme price movements.


Futures and options are vital components of the global financial markets, providing participants with tools for hedging, speculating, and managing risk. While they offer significant profit potential, it’s crucial to understand the inherent risks and complexities associated with these derivatives.

Whether you are a seasoned trader or a novice investor, a solid understanding of how futures and options work is essential before venturing into these markets. Developing a sound trading strategy, employing effective risk management, and staying informed about market developments are key to success in the dynamic world of futures and options trading. By highlighting the keyword “futures and options” in each paragraph, we’ve dissected these financial instruments, shedding light on their mechanisms and providing a foundation for anyone interested in exploring this complex but rewarding realm of finance.

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