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Ventura Wealth Clients
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In the world of finance, navigating the intricacies of various terms and strategies is essential for making informed investment decisions. One such crucial concept is the "cost of carry," which plays a significant role in understanding the net cost of holding an investment. This blog dives deep into the meaning of cost of carry, explores the formula used to calculate it, and analyses its implications for investors, particularly those venturing into derivatives markets.

What is the cost of carry in futures trading?

Simply put, the cost of carry refers to the net cost associated with holding an asset over a specific period. It encompasses various expenses incurred while maintaining a position in an investment, including:

  • Financing Costs: If you purchase an asset using borrowed funds, you will incur interest charges on the loan. This interest expense contributes to the cost of carry.
  • Storage Costs: For physical assets like commodities (oil, wheat, etc.), there are storage and maintenance costs associated with holding them. These costs also factor into the overall cost of carry.
  • Forgone Dividends or Interest: When you hold an asset like a stock, you might forgo receiving potential dividends or interest income that could have been earned if you had invested the money elsewhere. This opportunity cost is also considered part of the cost of carry.
  • Convenience Yield: This is a less common factor, but in some cases, holding a physical commodity can offer certain benefits, like the ability to sell it quickly to meet immediate needs. This potential benefit is referred to as the convenience yield and can sometimes be factored into the cost of carry formula (discussed below).

Formula for cost of carry

The cost of carry can be calculated using the following formula:

Cost of Carry = (Spot Price x Interest Rate x Time) + Storage Costs - Convenience Yield

  • Spot Price: The current market price of the asset.
  • Interest Rate: The risk-free interest rate, often represented by the yield on government bonds.
  • Time: The holding period of the asset, typically expressed as a fraction of a year.
  • Storage Costs: The expenses associated with storing the physical asset (applicable for commodities).
  • Convenience Yield: The potential benefit derived from holding the physical asset (rarely used).

Cost of carry and investor decisions

Understanding the cost of carry is particularly important for investors involved in derivatives markets, particularly futures contracts. Futures contracts obligate the holder to buy or sell an underlying asset at a predetermined price on a specific future date. When analysing futures contracts, the cost of carry helps determine:

  • Profitability: If the spot price of the asset is expected to rise more than the cost of carry over the holding period, the futures contract could be profitable.
  • Hedging Strategies: Cost of carry calculations help investors develop effective hedging strategies by considering the carrying costs associated with holding the underlying asset compared to the futures contract.

Additional considerations

  • Cost of Carry can be Positive or Negative: Depending on the interest rate environment, storage costs, and potential convenience yield, the cost of carry can be positive (representing a net expense) or negative (indicating a potential gain from holding the asset).
  • Market Expectations: The cost of carry also reflects market expectations about future price movements. A high cost of carry might indicate that the market anticipates a price decline, while a negative cost of carry might suggest expectations of a price increase.

Conclusion

The cost of carry is a fundamental concept for investors, especially those dealing with derivatives and futures trading. By understanding the factors influencing the cost of carry and its impact on investment decisions, investors can make more informed choices and potentially improve their investment strategies. Remember, a thorough understanding of the financial markets and a keen eye for risk management are crucial for navigating complex investment landscapes.

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