Contract definition of contract by merriam-webster j gastrointest surg

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If you plan to grow 500 bushels of wheat next year, you could sell your wheat for whatever the price is when you harvest it, or you could lock in a price now by selling a forward contract that obligates you to sell 500 bushels of wheat to, say, Kellogg after the harvest for a fixed price. By locking in the price now, you eliminate the risk of falling wheat prices. On the other hand, if prices rise later, you will get only what your contract entitles you to.

If you are Kellogg, you might want to purchase a forward contract to lock in prices and control your costs. However, you might end up overpaying or (hopefully) underpaying for the wheat depending on the market price when you take delivery of the wheat. Forward Contracts Are Not the Same as Futures Contracts Futures and forwards both allow people to buy or sell an asset at a specific time at a given price, but forward contracts are not standardized or traded on an exchange. They are private agreements with terms that may vary from contract to contract.

The parties to a forward contract tend to bear more credit risk than the parties to futures contracts because there is no clearinghouse involved that guarantees performance. Thus, there is always a chance that a party to a forward contract will default, and the harmed party’s only recourse may be to sue. As a result, forward-contract prices often include premiums for the added credit risk. Valuing Forward Contracts The value of a forward contract usually changes when the value of the underlying asset changes. So if the contract requires the buyer to pay $1,000 for 500 bushels of wheat but the market price drops to $600 for 500 bushels of wheat, the contract is worth $400 to the seller (because he or she would get $400 more than the market price for his or her wheat). Forward contracts are a zero-sum game; that is, if one side makes a million dollars, the other side loses a million dollars.

Forward contracts may be " cash settled," meaning that they settle with a single payment for the value of the forward contract. For example, if the price of 500 bushels of wheat is $1,000 in the spot market (the current market price) when the forward contract expires, but the forward contract requires the buyer to pay only $800, then the seller can just settle the contract by paying the buyer $200 instead of actually delivering 500 bushels of wheat and collecting a below-market price. The buyer might appreciate this; the only other way he would see his $200 profit is if he purchased the wheat for $800 and then turned around and sold it at the market price ($1,000). On a side note, when the spot price is higher than the forward-contract price, this is called backwardation; the opposite condition is called contango.

The assets often traded in futures contracts include commodities, stocks, and bonds. Grain, precious metals, electricity, oil, beef, orange juice, and natural gas are traditional examples of commodities, but foreign currencies, emissions credits, bandwidth, and certain financial instruments are also part of today’s commodity markets.

There are two kinds of futures traders: hedgers and speculators. Hedgers do not usually seek a profit by trading commodities futures but rather seek to stabilize the revenues or costs of their business operations. Their gains or losses are usually offset to some degree by a corresponding loss or gain in the market for the underlying physical commodity.

For example, if you plan to grow 500 bushels of wheat next year, you could either grow the wheat and then sell it for whatever the price is when you harvest it, or you could lock in a price now by selling a futures contract that obligates you to sell 500 bushels of wheat after the harvest for a fixed price. By locking in the price now, you eliminate the risk of falling wheat prices. On the other hand, if the season is terrible and the supply of wheat falls, prices will probably rise later — but you will get only what your contract entitled you to. If you are a bread manufacturer, you might want to purchase a wheat futures contract to lock in prices and control your costs. However, you might end up overpaying or (hopefully) underpaying for the wheat depending on where prices actually are when you take delivery of the wheat.

Speculators are usually not interested in taking possession of the underlying assets. They essentially place bets on the future prices of certain commodities. Thus, if you disagree with the consensus that wheat prices are going to fall, you might buy a futures contract. If your prediction is right and wheat prices increase, you could make money by selling the futures contract (which is now worth a lot more) before it expires (this prevents you from having to take delivery of the wheat as well). Speculators are often blamed for big price swings, but they also provide a lot of liquidity to the futures market.

Futures contracts are standardized, meaning that they specify the underlying commodity’s quality, quantity and delivery so that the prices mean the same thing to everyone in the market. For example, each kind of crude oil (light sweet crude, for example) must meet the same quality specifications so that light sweet crude from one producer is no different from another and the buyer of light sweet crude futures knows exactly what he’s getting.

The ability to trade futures contracts relies on clearing members, which manage the payments between buyer and seller. They are usually large banks and financial services companies. Clearing members guarantee each trade and thus require traders to make good-faith deposits (called margins) in order to ensure that the trader has sufficient funds to handle potential losses and will not default on the trade. The risk borne by clearing members lends further support to the strict quality, quantity and delivery specifications of futures contracts.