Futures Contract Definition

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Editorial Team

Updated on March 11, 2023

Define Futures in Simple Terms

Futures are contracts made between two parties obligating them to transact an asset at a given price at some predetermined future date.

These contracts have expirations, conditions, and prices that are known upfront and are not subject to change.

The price that is agreed upon while establishing the future is the price that must be paid for the underlying asset, regardless of changes in the market by the expiration.

Underlying assets include physical commodities, such as precious metals or crude oil, as well as some other financial instruments like stock index futures or US treasury bonds.

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What Are Futures in Finance?

Futures can be used by investors to speculate about the direction of the market and to hedge against losses.

If an investor believes the price of a commodity will rise, then they may want to purchase futures contracts now and make a profit at their expiration.

If they believe the price will fall, they may use futures to lock in the sale price for commodities they own to avoid incurring a loss when the price drops.

Futures Examples

Futures can involve the transaction of a wide variety of assets, including:

  • Physical commodities, like crude oil, corn, wheat, and so on
  • Stock index futures, such as the S&P 500 index
  • Currency futures, such as for the dollar (UDS), euro (EUR), or pound (GBP)
  • Precious metals futures, such as for silver, gold, and platinum
  • US Treasury futures, such as for bonds or other financial products

Futures FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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