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Introduction to Trading Futures.

Welcome to the exciting world of Futures. This booklet serves as an introductory guide for those wishing to start trading futures contracts.

What are Futures Contracts?

A futures contract is an agreement between buyer and seller of an underlying commodity / financial instrument / asset at a price set today for delivery in the future. They are standardised contracts traded on Exchanges around the world. Example:


Futures Contract



Crude Palm Oil

Crude Palm Oil Futures

Bursa Malaysia

Derivatives (BMD)


Gold Futures

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME)

Hang Seng Index

Hang Seng Index Futures

Hong Kong

Exchange (HKeX)

The History of the Futures market

Forward contracts, a predecessor of futures trading, originated as early as ancient Greece, where merchants traded contracts for olive produce.

In Japan, during the 17 th Century, there existed the Dojima Rice Market in Osaka which was probably the earliest version of the

modern day organised futures exchanges.

The 19 th century saw standardised grain futures contracts being traded on the Chicago Board Of Trade (CBOT).

Currently, futures contracts are traded on more than 80 Exchanges

all around the world with diverse contracts such as indices, interest

rates, energy and metals, besides the traditional agricultural commodities.

Who are the players? Participants in the futures market can be chiefly divided into two groups depending on the rationale behind trading the market.

The first group comprises Hedgers; these are mainly corporations, businesses or individuals who enter the futures markets to remove or hedge their price risk.

These are people normally holding the underlying commodity or asset. For example, producers of crude palm oil or gold; asset managers who hold equity portfolios; and banks with loan portfolios. Their main rationale in using the futures market is to reduce or

eliminate price risk.

The second group comprises Speculators; these are institutions or individuals whose main rationale is to profit from movements in the prices of futures contracts. They are largely bank proprietary or treasury desks, hedge funds, arbitrageurs and individual traders. Speculators assume the risk that Hedgers seek to offset, with a view to profit from it.

Structure of the Futures Market.

Different bodies or participants make up the structure of a futures market and this usually comprises the following:

The Exchange

The Clearing House



The Exchange The Exchange aims to provide an efficient, transparent and orderly trading environment where futures contracts are bought and sold.

environment where futures contracts are bought and sold. The Exchange creates and designs the standardised futures

The Exchange creates

and designs the standardised futures contracts and offers them to the market for trading.

The Clearing House

The Clearing House plays the critical role as the counterparties to all buyers and sellers in a futures market. The Clearing House, in effect, acts to guarantee the performance of all futures contracts in the market.

In order to do that, buyers and sellers of futures contracts are required to put up sufficient deposits, called margin, to back the position that they have in the market.


The role of the regulating authority is to supervise the Exchange, the Clearing House as well as the Brokers. The Regulator also has investigative as well as enforcement powers to ensure compliance to the Rules and governing laws in order to maintain fair and orderly markets.

In most jurisdictions it is the role of the Regulator to conduct

licensing for the intermediaries in the market as well. Ultimately, the

role of the Regulator is to ensure investor’s interests are protected. In Malaysia, the regulating body for the futures market is the Securities Commission of Malaysia.

Brokers Brokers act as intermediaries to provide their clients, who may be both hedgers and speculators, access to the Exchange to buy or sell

futures contracts. Brokers charge brokerage commissions for the

execution services as well as other services which may include advice, voice or online trading platforms, market research or analysis.

In most countries, brokers and their representatives are required to be licensed before they can offer their services to clients. In Malaysia, all Futures brokers and representatives are required to pass licensing examinations and obtain a license to deal with clients.

Why trade the Futures Market?

The futures market has many distinct advantages for investors and traders. Here are the main advantages of trading futures:


Leverage enables an investor to hold a larger sized investment using

a smaller capital outlay.

This is an inherent feature of the futures market as brokers and the clearing house require the investor to put up a margin deposit which

is always much less than the notional value of the futures contract.

For example, in order to trade one contract of Bursa Malaysia FTSE

Kuala Lumpur Index Futures (FKLI) contract, one would need to put

a margin deposit of, say, RM4,000.

The notional value of a FKLI contract is valued at RM50 multiplied by the Kuala Lumpur Index. If an investor bought one FKLI contract at 1,600, he would, in notional terms, have bought RM50 x 1,600, or RM80,000 worth of Kuala Lumpur Index Stocks.

Essentially with a deposit of RM4,000 he now holds RM80,000 worth

of stock. He is said to have employed RM80,000 / 4,000 or 20x leverage for his position.

If the Kuala Lumpur Index rises by 10%, the investor would stand to gain RM8,000 or 200% on his initial deposit. The 20x leverage enables him to realise a 200% gain rather than just 10% if he had put up RM80,000 to buy the same stocks. That is the power of leverage.

Liquidity Liquidity is how actively a particular futures contract is trading in terms of volume and frequency. The more liquid the futures contract is, the more buyers and sellers are in the market to


It is very important to trade liquid contracts too, as they enable the

investor to easily enter and exit the market.

A very liquid futures contract also allows an investor to trade larger

positions knowing that he can choose to exit the market at any time.

contract also allows an investor to trade larger positions knowing that he can choose to exit

Why trade the Futures market?

Volatility The more volatile a particular futures contract, the greater the possibility for profitable trading opportunities. The futures market has strong price moves and this volatility create many opportunities for

investors to profit.

create many opportunities for investors to profit. Trade Bull and Bear markets The futures market allows

Trade Bull and Bear markets The futures market allows an investor to take a bullish view of the market as well a bearish position. Unlike, say a pure equity investor, who can only profit from a rising stock market, a futures investor can make money when stocks are rising as well as falling.

The global futures market offer a multitude of different contracts all going through bear or bull cycles with abundance of trading opportunities.

Low Transaction Costs

Futures contracts are relatively cheaper to trade than the underlying commodity of financial instruments.

Diversification to Alternative Investment Adding alternative investments into your portfolio can help to reduce your portfolio volatility as well as enhance your portfolio returns. Studies have shown that investments into alternative investment

products especially ones that are non-correlated to traditional bond

and equity markets tend to give that effect.

Futures, especially commodity futures, are pure alternative instruments that can help you achieve this diversification.

How it works?

Opening a Trading Account In order to start trading futures you need to open a futures trading

account with a broker. You are normally required to sign a Risk

Disclosure Statement to declare that you are aware of the potential loss in trading futures.

The trading account documents will set out the terms and conditions for trading including brokerage commission charges and well as other services provided.

Initial Margin

After the trading account is approved, you would be required to put up an initial margin deposit into your trading account in order to be able to start trading. The minimum initial margin is usually determined by your broker.

The initial margin deposited will determine how many futures contracts you can trade. Margins per contract are determined by the Clearing

House but may differ depending on your broker. The Clearing House

normally determines margins according to the risk and volatility of a particular futures contract.

Variation Margin Daily movements in the pricing of futures contracts create profits or losses for a position in that futures contract. At the end of the trading day, all profits and losses against a settlement or closing price are

credited or debited respectively into the account of the client who has a

position in the futures contract. This process is called marked to market.

These daily profit and loss movements in margins are referred to as variation margin.

Margin Calls

Margin calls occur when the variation margin losses reduce the trading account balance to the point that they are below the margin required by the Clearing House.

In this case, the broker will inform the client of the margin call. The client can then choose to add more funds into the account, reduce his position or liquidate the position entirely.

Example of Margin Calculations:

Say a client bought a position of 10 contracts in CME Gold Futures Contract. If the initial margin of Gold Futures is US$10,000, the client has to have a minimum of US$100,000 for his 10 contracts.

Assuming if gold prices dropped on the same day and the client’s loss was US$25,000, his account balance would be reduced to


How it works?

Since the client is required to have at least US$100,000 in his account, the broker will request for additional deposits to be made until that is achieved. This request for additional funds is called a margin call which, in this case, is US$25,000, as illustrated in the table below:

Table 1: Margin call tabulation

At start of day


Margin requirement per contract


Margin requirement for 10 lots


Initial Margin in clients account


At end of day (EOD)


Variation Margin Loss EOD


Balance in clients account EOD


Margin call on clients account


Contract Specifications Contract specifications are important for the investor to understand as it spells out the how, what, where and when of trading a particular futures contract. Here are the essential features of a futures contract that need to be understood:

Contract Size This states the size in weight, dollar value, quantity or in the case of indices, the contract multiplier for the Index.

Examples of contract sizes:

Gold Futures (COMEX/CME) - 100 oz

Crude Palm Oil (BMD) - 25 metric tons

Hang Seng Index - HK$50 x Hang Seng Index

Contract Months Specify the months available for trading. Normally you would choose an active contract month to trade to take advantage of the liquidity. You would normally not trade the Spot Month of a physically deliverable contract unless you are commercially involved in buying or selling the physical underlying.

Minimum Price Fluctuation Defines the minimum price movement of the contract in terms of index point, dollar per oz, Ringgit per etc.

Delivery Method Specifies how the contract is settled during the expiry of the particular month. If it is a physically delivered contract, buyers will need to take delivery of the underlying asset or commodity. Otherwise, most futures contracts are cash settled

Trading Hours Defines when the contract opens and closes for daily trading.

Last Trading Day Defines the last day and time where all trading of a particular futures contract ceases.

What Futures to trade?

Over 12 billion futures contracts are traded annually in over 80 Exchanges around the world. The futures market offers an array of diversified products, be it stock indices, agricultural commodities, metals or energy products. This opens the door to new and exciting

investment choices for you.

Futures contracts can be widely divided into the following categories:-

Equity Indices

Individual Equities

Interest Rates

Agricultural Commodities

Non Precious Metals

Precious Metals


Equity Indices Futures on equity indices are one of the most popular futures contracts traded around the globe. These contracts are usually based on popular or benchmark stock market indices for example Dow Jones & Nasdaq Indices of US, Nikkei 225 index of Japan or Hang Seng Index of Hong Kong.

Equity Index Futures are designed to reference the movements of the underlying Indices. So a Dow Jones Index Futures contract has its underlying in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), an index of the top 30 large capitalisation blue chip stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The notional value of an index futures contract is calculated by multiplying the contract multiplier with the current value/pricing of the index. For example, if the E Mini Dow Jones Futures Index Futures of a particular month is trading at 12,000 and the contract

multiplier is US$5 per index point, then the notional value equals




Value /


Equity Index Futures Contract



Price of




Hang Seng Index




Nikkei 225

Yen 500


Yen4.5 mil

Bursa Malaysia


KL Index




E Mini Dow Jones




Individual Equities

Individual Equity Futures are contracts based on the individual stock or securities and are commonly called Single Stock Futures (SSF). For example, Genting SSF or Air Asia SSF are SSF contracts traded on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange.

What Futures to trade?

The notional value of a SSF contract is usually derived by multiplying the stock price with the contract multiplier. For example, Air Asia has a multiplier of 1000. If Air Asia is now trading at RM3.60 then the notional value of the Air Asia SSF is RM3600.


Single Stocks Futures Contract




Price of









Air Asia




Interest Rates Interest rate futures are another active contract mainly traded by banks and financial institutions that are exposed to global interest rates and money supply dynamics.

One of the most actively traded interest rate futures contracts in the world are the CME Eurodollar Futures as well as the CBOT 10 Year Treasury Note Futures.

Interest rate futures usually have their contract sized fixed to specific face values of the underlying debt instrument or fixed dollar values.

For example, one contract of CBOT 10 Year Treasury Note Futures is based on face value at maturity of US$100,000 whereas the CME Eurodollar Futures is based on a principal value of US$1million worth of Eurodollar Time Deposit of 3 month maturity.

Agricultural Commodities

Time Deposit of 3 month maturity. Agricultural Commodities Agricultural commodities futures comprise a major group of

Agricultural commodities futures comprise a major group of futures contracts actively traded globally. Traditionally, most futures markets had its beginnings from physical agricultural commodities

Some of the most actively traded agricultural commodities

futures in the world are cotton,

sugar, rubber, soyabean oil and corn. The most actively traded futures contract on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives is the Crude Palm Oil futures contract since Malaysia is a major producer of Crude Palm Oil.

What Futures to trade?

Agricultural commodities are a great alternative investment since they are not well correlated to equity or bond markets. Agricultural commodity prices tend to be volatile due to the susceptibility of crops to weather uncertainty as well as global demand trends.

Agricultural commodities futures contract sizes are usually specified

by standard weight or volume per contract.


Commodity Futures Contract0

Contract Size

Rubber (TOCOM)

5,000 kg

Corn (CBOT)

5,000 bushels

Soybean Oil (CBOT)

60,000 lbs

Crude Palm Oil (BMD)

25 metric tonnes

Non Precious Metals

Non precious metal futures are mainly contracts on metals mined mainly for industrial usage. They have surged in interest to speculators and traders due to large price movements in 2005-2007.

The main non precious metal contracts traded around the world are copper, zinc and aluminium. Much like agricultural commodities futures, non precious metals futures contracts are quoted in weight.

Precious Metals

futures contracts are quoted in weight. Precious Metals Precious metals like gold and silver caught the

Precious metals like gold and silver caught the attention of traders after a long and major bull market since early 2000 and have remained one

of the most actively

traded futures contracts

in the world.

Many Futures Exchanges around the world offer Gold Futures but the main Futures contract for gold and silver is traded on COMEX in the US where it sets the benchmark for global gold and silver prices.

What Futures to trade?

The London Metal Exchange (LME) is also a major Exchange for trading the metal.

Gold and silver futures contracts are quoted in weight per contract as in the example below:

Metal Futures Contract

Contract Size

Gold (COMEX)

100 troy oz

Silver (COMEX)

5,000 troy oz

Copper Futures (COMEX)

25,000 lbs


Energy Futures is an active and vibrant market due to the importance of energy products to the world economy. The energy markets today play a major role in global economic and political developments.

Both hedgers and speculators participate in the energy futures markets due to the volatile nature of energy prices which are extremely sensitive to geopolitical changes in the global economy.

The most followed energy futures contract globally is the Crude Oil futures contract traded on two major Exchanges, NYMEX and ICE. The WTI Light Sweet Crude Oil and Futures Brent Crude Oil are traded on NYMEX in the US and ICE in Europe respectively.

Other popular energy futures are Natural Gas, Gasoline and Heating Oil. Here are some contract sizes for the main energy futures contracts:

Energy Futures Contract

Contract Size

WTI Light Sweet Crude (NYMEX)

1,000 barrels

Brent Crude (ICE Europe)

1,000 barrels

RBOB Gasoline (NYMEX)

42,000 gallons

Natural Gas (NYMEX)

10,000 mmBtu

Basic Futures trading strategy.

Buying gold to profit from expected rise in gold prices

If a trader believes the price of gold is going to increase in the near

future, he could profit by BUYING (Go LONG) a Gold Futures Contract.

If his forecast is correct and prices rise, he can then SELL it later at a higher price and make a profit.

Assume that in June, the trader bought one September Month COMEX

Gold Futures Contract at $1,580 per oz.

He pays a margin of approximately $10,000 to the broker to hold one gold futures contract.


If his forecast is correct and by August, the September Gold Futures rises to $1,650, he can then sell the gold futures contract for a profit of

$7,000 on the trade. The table below illustrates the example.

Example: Going LONG

on Gold Futures Contract Profit if price rises


Price per oz US$

Value of Contract US$ (100 oz)



Buy 1 Sep Gold Futures Contract




Sell 1 Sep Gold Futures Contract







Conversely, if his forecast was incorrect, the trader will make a loss instead. From the same example below, if he had bought a September Gold Futures Contract in June at $1,580 and subsequently closed out at $1,550 in August, he would make a loss

of $3,000.

Example: Going LONG on Gold Futures Contract Loss if price drops


Price per oz US$

Value of Contract US$ (100 oz)


Buy 1 Sep Gold Futures Contract




Sell 1 Sep Gold Futures Contract







Selling Hang Seng Index Futures to profit from an expected drop in equity prices

If a trader forecasts that Asian equity prices are going to drop in the near future, he could profit from this by SELLING (Go SHORT) the Mini Hang Seng Index Futures.

If his forecast is correct, he can profit by BUYING back the Mini Hang Seng Index Futures later.

Basic Futures trading strategy.

Assume the trader went SHORT one June Month Mini HSI Futures in

April at 20,000 points. He pays the broker say, HKD13,000, as margin

to hold one contract of Mini HSI Futures.

Margin requirements for going SHORT are the same as initiating a LONG futures contract.

Example: Going SHORT on Mini HSI Futures Contract Profit if index




Value of Contract (Index x HKD 10)



Sell 1 June Mini HSI



Futures Contract




Buy 1 June Mini HSI



Futures Contract







If in the month of May, the June Mini HSI Futures contract drops to 19,000, the trader would make a profit of HKD10,000 if he BUYS back the futures contract at 19,000.

However, if the trader’s forecast is incorrect then he would make a loss. Assuming the Mini HSI Futures rises to 21,000, the trader would have made a loss of HKD10,000.

Example: Going SHORT on Mini HSI Futures Contract Loss if index rises



Value of Contract (Index x HKD 10)



Sell 1 June Mini HSI Futures Contract




Buy 1 June Mini HSI Futures Contract







How to place an order with your broker?

In futures trading, there are many different types of orders that can be placed with your broker depending on what you intend to


There are orders for initiating an entry into the market; orders to exit a current position as well as contingency orders to limit losses after you have a position in the futures market.

losses after you have a position in the futures market. Types of orders Here are some

Types of orders Here are some common order types you are likely to use:

Market orders This is an order to buy or sell which is executed at the best possible price obtainable immediately.

Limit orders This is an order to buy or sell at a designated price.

Limit orders to BUY are placed below the market while limit orders to SELL are placed above the market. Since the market may never get high enough or low enough to trigger a limit order, a trader may miss the market if he uses a limit order.

Stop orders - A buy stop order is placed above the market and a sell stop order is placed below the market. Once the stop price is touched, the order is treated like a market order and will be filled at the best possible price.

Stop orders are usually used as a stop loss order to limit losses to a position. For example, an investor with a long position in Crude Palm Oil Futures at 2500 may put the sell stop order at 2450. When the price of 2450 is traded, this will trigger a Sell Market Order. It can, however, also be used as a way to enter a new position if a certain target price is reached.

Stop limit orders - A stop limit order lists two prices and is an attempt to gain more control over the price at which your stop is filled. The first part of the order is written like a stop order. The second part of the order specifies a limit price. This indicates that once your stop is triggered, you do not wish to be filled beyond the limit price.

Stop limit orders can be used similarly as stop loss order or as an entry into a new position. However, do note that if used as a stop loss order, it may not be filled within the specified limit and your position will not be stopped out. An investor with a long Crude Palm Oil Futures contract at 2500 who places a Sell Stop Order at 2450 with a limit of 2430 would result in a Sell Limit Order of 2430 if 2450 is traded. However note that if prices gap below 2430, his Sell Limit

Order may not be filled if the market continues to move lower.

Good Until Canceled Order (GTC) A GTC order is used in conjunction with a Limit or Stop order. Orders will remain valid and worked until the client cancels order, or if it is filled, or if the contract expires.

Getting started.

Knowing what to trade

Getting to know what you are trading is an important step when starting out to trade futures. Read as much as possible or get advice from professionals in the business. There are many resources on futures trading that you can use. You should be able to find ample resources online that are free, which provide a great deal of information.

With the correct knowledge, you now need to decide on a trading plan, what to trade and what trading style is suitable for your investment requirements.

Know how much funds to risk

It is advisable to have an idea of how much funds you will allocate for your futures trading account. This is determined by how much risk capital you are willing to fork out. Futures trading entails some risk and one is well advised to only trade with risk capital you can afford.

Work with your broker / dealer

When you first start out in trading futures, it is important to communicate

with your dealer / broker to determine your trading needs and as well as what sort of requirements you will need for support such as research, trading ideas, news updates and trading platforms.

sort of requirements you will need for support such as research, trading ideas, news updates and

Why trade Futures with us?

OSK Investment Bank Berhad (OSKIB) is a regional investment bank with presence in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong and China.

OSKIB is proud to be one of Malaysia’s top futures broker providing

access to futures trading in Malaysia as well as in major futures markets around the world. Whether you are trading equity indices like the Hang Seng Index or the e-Mini Dow; commodities like Gold, Crude Oil or Crude Palm Oil, we provide fast and convenient access to these markets.

Our online trading platform allows you to trade global futures contracts on your laptops wherever you are connected to the internet. With real time quotes and charts, you would be able to plan your investments even more effectively.

OSKIB has an experienced team of Futures Broker Representatives and Dual Licensed Holders who can cater to your diverse needs based on your suitability to certain futures products.

They are trained professionally and have a good understanding of the markets. Their experience and knowledge can certainly help improve your trading performance.

In order to serve your needs for trading futures in different time

zones, we also have a night desk dedicated to support your queries

and trading needs.

To find out more, visit us at