What happens if we don’t close futures on expiry?

by Jennifer

In the world of financial markets, futures trading stands as a prominent avenue for investors seeking exposure to various asset classes, from commodities to equities. Central to futures trading is the concept of contract expiry, wherein traders must decide whether to close out their positions before the contract reaches its expiration date. However, what happens if traders opt not to close their futures positions upon expiry? In this article, we delve into the ramifications of failing to close futures contracts at expiry, exploring the potential risks, benefits, and implications for traders in this scenario.

Understanding Futures Expiry

Futures contracts are standardized agreements that obligate parties to buy or sell a specified asset at a predetermined price on a future date. Each futures contract has a designated expiration date, after which it ceases to exist, and trading in that contract typically ceases on or before the expiry date. At expiry, traders must settle their positions by either delivering the underlying asset (in the case of physical delivery contracts) or offsetting their positions through an opposing trade.


The Consequences of Not Closing Futures on Expiry

When traders choose not to close their futures positions before expiry, several consequences may arise, depending on the nature of the contract and market conditions. One potential outcome is the automatic liquidation of the position by the exchange or brokerage firm, where the contract is closed out at prevailing market prices. This can result in gains or losses for the trader, depending on whether the market price is higher or lower than the trader’s entry price.


Another consequence of not closing futures on expiry is the possibility of physical delivery for contracts that involve tangible assets, such as commodities. If a trader holds a futures contract until expiry and is unable or unwilling to offset the position, they may be required to take delivery of the underlying asset or make arrangements for storage and transportation, which can incur additional costs and logistical challenges.

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In some cases, failing to close futures on expiry may lead to unintended exposure to price fluctuations in the underlying asset after the contract expires. Without an active position in the market, traders forfeit the ability to manage their risk or capitalize on favorable market movements, potentially exposing themselves to losses if prices move against their original position.

Additionally, not closing futures on expiry can have tax implications for traders, particularly if the unrealized gains or losses on the position are subject to taxation. Depending on the jurisdiction and the trader’s tax status, holding futures contracts until expiry may result in taxable events that require reporting to relevant authorities.

Strategies for Managing Futures Expiry

To mitigate the potential risks associated with futures expiry, traders employ various strategies aimed at either closing out their positions before expiry or managing the consequences effectively. One common approach is to roll over futures positions by closing out expiring contracts and simultaneously opening new positions in contracts with later expiration dates. This allows traders to maintain exposure to the market while avoiding the complications of physical delivery or automatic liquidation.

Another strategy is to monitor futures positions closely as the expiry date approaches and take proactive steps to close out positions if necessary. By staying informed about market conditions, economic indicators, and other relevant factors, traders can make informed decisions about when to exit their positions to avoid unwanted consequences at expiry.

Furthermore, traders may choose to hedge their futures positions using options contracts or other derivative instruments. Hedging allows traders to offset the risk of adverse price movements in the underlying asset, providing a degree of protection against potential losses resulting from holding futures contracts until expiry.


In conclusion, the decision to close or hold futures positions until expiry carries significant implications for traders, with potential consequences ranging from automatic liquidation to physical delivery and tax liabilities. Understanding the dynamics of futures expiry and implementing appropriate risk management strategies are essential for navigating this aspect of futures trading successfully.

While holding futures contracts until expiry may offer opportunities for profit, it also entails risks and uncertainties that traders must consider carefully. By staying informed, employing sound trading strategies, and remaining vigilant in managing their positions, traders can optimize their chances of success in the futures market and mitigate the potential adverse effects of expiry-related complications.

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