Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

In finance, a futures contract (more colloquially, futures) is a contract between two parties to buy or sell an asset for a price agreed upon today (the futures price) with delivery and payment occurring at a future point, the delivery date. Because it is a function of an underlying asset, a futures contract is considered a derivative product. Contracts are negotiated at futures exchanges, which act as a marketplace between buyer and seller. The buyer of the contract is said to be “long”, and the party selling the contract is said to be “short”. The original use of futures contracts was to mitigate the risk of price or exchange rate movements by allowing parties to fix prices or rates in advance for future transactions. This could be advantageous when (for example) a party expects to receive payment in foreign currency in the future, and wishes to guard against an unfavorable movement of the currency in the interval before payment is received. However futures contracts also offer opportunities for speculation in that a trader who predicts that the price of an asset will move in a particular direction can contract to buy or sell it in the future at a price which (if the prediction is correct) will yield a profit.