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What Are Futures?
In finance, a futures contract is a standardized contract, traded on a futures exchange, to buy or sell a certain underlying instrument at a certain date in the future, at a specified price. The future date is called the delivery date or final settlement date. The pre-set price is called the futures price. The price of the underlying asset on the delivery date is called the settlement price.
A futures contract gives the holder the obligation to buy or sell, which differs from an options contract, which gives the holder the right, but not the obligation. In other words, the owner of an options contract may exercise the contract. Both parties of a "futures contract" must fulfill the contract on the settlement date. The seller delivers the commodity to the buyer, or, if it is a cash-settled future, then cash is transferred from the futures trader who sustained a loss to the one who made a profit. To exit the commitment prior to the settlement date, the holder of a futures position has to offset their position by either selling a long position or buying back a short position, effectively closing out the futures position and its contract obligations.
Futures contracts, or simply futures, are exchange traded derivatives. The exchange's clearinghouse acts as counterparty on all contracts, sets margin requirements, etc.
According to Jim Rogers, "commodities get no respect." Here are a few reasons why he thinks they should: they are easier to comprehend and study than stocks and behave more rationally since they are subject to the basic laws of supply and demand; they have outperformed many other investment options in recent years; it is foolish to ignore an entire sector of the marketplace; and a bull market is currently under way in commodities--a trend that Rogers expects to last for a least a decade longer. Further, Rogers believes that you cannot be a successful investor in stocks, bonds, or currencies without an understanding of commodities. Hot Commodities: How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World's Best Market is designed to introduce the novice to the basics of investing in commodities as well as explain what they are and why they are important. In doing so, he shatters some myths about the relative risks of commodities, explains the relationship between the stock and commodities markets, and provides a succinct analysis and history of the global oil, gold, lead, sugar, and coffee markets.
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