As futures markets are the most popular day trading markets, both beginning and experienced day traders need to know what futures contracts are, and understand how they are used during trading.
Futures contract specifications detail all of the trading information that a day trader needs to be able to trade a particular market, such as :
The symbol, expiration date, and exchange, are used together to identify the exact market and contract that will be traded, and the tick size and value, are used to specify the price movement and profit and loss potential. The contract specifications are also used to configure trading software and charting software, so that they trade the correct market, and display the market's prices correctly.
Futures contracts are only valid for a specific length of time, and when the current contract expires, traders must update their trading software and their charting software to use the next contract. Most futures markets use contracts that are valid for 3 months, and have expirations in March, June, September, and December, but there are also futures markets whose contracts expire more often, or at different times. Some popular futures markets that expire at the most common expiration dates are :
- EUR - The Euro to US Dollar futures market
- GBP - The British Pound to US Dollar futures market
- YM - The Dow Jones futures market
- ES - The S&P 500 futures market
- ER2 - The Russell 2000 futures market
- DAX - The DAX futures market
and some popular futures markets that have different expiration dates are :
- CAC40 - The CAC40 futures market
- HSI - The Hang Seng futures market
- ZG - The Gold 100 troy ounce futures market
- ZI - The Silver 5000 ounce futures market
- ZC - The Corn futures market
- ZW - The Wheat futures market
Singe or Multiple Contracts
Futures contracts are the smallest individual units that can be traded (like a single share on a stock market). Beginning day traders usually trade single contracts, whereas experienced day traders may trade multiple contracts at the same time, thereby increasing their trade's profit and loss potential.
Contract Specifications Availability
The contract specifications for many of the popular futures markets are available in the market profiles, and the contract specifications for other markets are available on the web site of the exchange that offers the market (such as the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange), and the CBOT (Chicago Board of Trade).