Derivatives Trading Basics
by 5paisa Research Team Last Updated: 2023-09-26T13:34:26+05:30
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Opening a futures and options (F&O) trading account is just the beginning of your journey into this complex investment method. Futures and options differ from equity investing in several ways, and understanding their nuances is crucial. Unlike equities, F&O contracts are time-bound and represent agreements rather than physical assets. In this guide, we will explore the basics of F&O trading for beginners.


What are Futures and Options?

Futures and options are financial derivatives used by investors to seek returns or hedge existing investments. They provide the right (but not the obligation) to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price and date. However, they operate differently and carry distinct risks.

Futures Contracts: These obligate the buyer to purchase and the seller to sell an asset on a specified future date at a pre-agreed price. Futures are often used as hedges, such as in the case of commodities like oil or wheat.

Example: Imagine a farmer who wants to secure a favourable price for their wheat crop, which will be ready for sale in three months. By entering into a wheat futures contract, the farmer agrees to sell the wheat at today's price to a buyer in three months. This hedges against the risk of falling wheat prices.

Options Contracts: Options provide the holder the right (but not the obligation) to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price by a specific date. Options can be on stocks, indices, currencies, commodities, or other securities.

Example: An investor believes that Company X's stock will rise in the next three months but wants to limit potential losses. They can purchase a call option on Company X's stock with a strike price of ₹5,000 that expires in three months. If the stock rises above ₹5,000 within that time frame, they can exercise the option and buy the stock at the lower strike price.


Futures and Options Trading for Beginners: Seven Key Things to Know

1. Leverage Works Both Ways: Futures are leveraged products, meaning you can amplify both profits and losses. While you pay a fraction of the contract's value as margin, be aware that losses can also be magnified.

2. Options Offer Limited Risk: Buying options limits your risk to the premium paid. However, statistically, most options expire worthless, and sellers tend to profit more often.

3. Options Are Asymmetrical: Options trading presents an asymmetrical risk profile. While the buyer's loss is capped at the premium, the seller's loss can be unlimited.

4. Margins Can Increase in Volatility: Margin requirements for futures can rise significantly during market volatility, potentially leading to additional funding needs or position closures.

5. Use Stop Losses and Profit Targets: Approach F&O trading as a trader, not an investor. Set clear stop-loss and profit-taking levels for each trade and stick to them diligently.

6. Beware of Trading Costs: While brokerage and costs may seem lower in percentage terms than equities, frequent trading in F&O can add up quickly. Ensure your profit-to-cost ratio is favourable.

7. Non-Directional Strategies with Options: F&O allows non-directional strategies using options, making it possible to profit in both volatile and stagnant markets.


Trading in futures and options offers the potential for substantial profits but comes with significant risks. Beginners should prioritize education, practice with virtual accounts, and exercise caution before engaging in real trading. Understanding the dynamics of these financial derivatives is essential for successful F&O trading.


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