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A term used to designate any contract covering the sale of financial instruments or physical commodities for future delivery on a futures exchange. Alternatively, a future is any forward contract that has been standardized and listed for trading on a futures exchange.
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. Futures 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. Futures contract are standard instruments; that is, unlike forward contracts, their provisions are standardized. As such, they may be traded on an exchange.
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