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See: Forward contract
Copyright © 2012, Campbell R. Harvey. All Rights Reserved.
An agreement to buy or sell an asset at a certain date at a certain price. That is, Investor A may make a contract with Farmer B in which A agrees to buy a certain number of bushels of B's corn at $15 per bushel. This contract must be honored whether the price of corn goes to $1 or $100 per bushel. Forward contracts can help reduce volatility in certain markets, but they contain the risks inherent to all speculative investing. These contracts may be sold on the secondary market, but the person holding the contract at its end must take delivery of the underlying asset. Forward contracts are identical to futures contracts except that their provisions are not standardized. That is, forwards may be written with any provisions the parties desire. While this allows for greater flexibility, this makes the contracts less liquid on the secondary market and prevents them from being traded on an exchange.
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