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Ventura Wealth Clients
2 min Read

In the realm of financial markets, futures contracts play a crucial role in managing risk and price discovery. But have you ever wondered how the price of a futures contract is determined? This blog post peels back the layers and reveals the key factors that influence futures pricing.

What are futures contracts?

A futures contract is a legally binding agreement to buy or sell an underlying asset (like a commodity, stock index, or currency) at a predetermined price on a specific future date. The price you agree upon today, known as the futures price, reflects various factors that attempt to estimate the fair value of the asset at the expiry date of the contract.

How are futures prices determined?

There isn't a single, universally applied formula for determining futures prices. However, two fundamental concepts play a vital role:

  • Spot Price: This is the current market price of the underlying asset. It serves as the starting point for futures pricing.
  • Cost of Carry: This represents the net cost of holding the underlying asset until the futures contract expires. It includes factors like:

    • Interest Rates: The cost of borrowing money to buy the underlying asset (for long positions) or the interest earned on holding the asset (for short positions).
    • Storage Costs: The expense of storing a physical commodity like oil or agricultural products.
    • Insurance Costs: The cost of insuring the underlying asset against potential damage or loss.
    • Convenience Yield: The potential benefit of owning the physical asset, such as the ability to generate income through dividends (for stocks) or interest payments (for bonds).

The equilibrium equation

The interplay between supply and demand ultimately dictates the futures price. Here's a simplified breakdown:

  • Expectations of Future Spot Prices: If market participants anticipate the spot price to rise in the future, they'll be willing to pay a premium for a futures contract, driving the futures price upwards. Conversely, if a price drop is expected, the futures price will trade at a discount to the spot price.
  • Cost of Carry: The cost of carry significantly influences futures pricing. For instance, if interest rates are high, the cost of carrying a long position becomes expensive. This can lead to a situation where the futures price trades at a discount to the spot price, reflecting the cost of holding the asset.

Additional factors to consider

  • Market Sentiment: General market sentiment towards the underlying asset and the overall economy can influence futures pricing. Bullish sentiment can push futures prices up, while bearish sentiment can drive them down.
  • Supply and Demand Dynamics: Changes in the supply and demand fundamentals of the underlying asset can impact futures prices. For example, an unexpected weather event affecting crop yields can significantly impact agricultural futures prices.
  • Speculation: Speculators who believe they can profit from price movements can influence futures prices in the short term by taking large positions (buying or selling contracts).


Futures prices are constantly evolving, reflecting the ongoing interplay between the factors mentioned above. Understanding these factors empowers you to make informed decisions when trading futures contracts. Remember, futures trading involves inherent risks, and a thorough understanding of market dynamics and risk management strategies is crucial before venturing into this realm.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Please consult with a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions.