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What are CFDs?

If you are looking into the world of trading, you may have come across the term CFD. CFD stands for contract for difference. It is an incredibly useful tool for investing in a particular market without putting too much at risk. A newcomer to the world of trading can reap great benefits from using them. So, what are they? To put it briefly, they are a type of derivative. You may then ask yourself, what are derivatives?


A derivative is a type of contract that does not require the party involved to own any assets. Instead, the party will consider the price of an asset and consider where they think its price will go. They will then base their contract on the current and predicted future price of said asset. Essentially, they are making a bet on the price movement of the asset. This is highly beneficial, as said party will never have to own the asset, so will not have to convince anyone to trade said asset with. All they have to do is come to terms with another party beforehand, and once the conditions of the contract are fulfilled, the trade can go through.


So, if you are correct with your predictions, you should be guaranteed a trade. The other great thing about derivatives is that you can base them on any asset. Since you are not restricted to paying the incredibly high prices of, say, stocks, you will be able to benefit from their price change without paying for them. So assets usually not available to you will suddenly become worthwhile investments. Finally, you can start trading in CFDs for very low prices, because as we said, you do not need to pay the full price of an asset.

History of CFDs

CFDs originated in Europe in the early 1990s, and by the end of the decade interest in them rose immensely. It arrived just as the age of the internet was beginning. As such, they became a very accessible way to enter any trading market. The ease of using these contracts, along with the wealth of information given to traders by the internet, made them a very attractive option. The market was also highly unregulated, which is why countries like the United States would not allow trading in them.

Basics of CFDs

So, with all that out of the way, onto the main topic of our article. What are CFDs, and how are they different from other derivatives? The main attraction of CFDs is that they do not have a set expiry date. This means that traders can finish a trade whenever they feel ready. They can wait for the value of the asset that they desire and then complete the trade. This is of great benefit to the trader, as it more closely resembles the realities of real trading. Many times, the value of an asset can be just at the wrong place, at the exact times that a contract expires. A CFD allows you to circumvent slight hiccups like this.

Much like most derivatives, the prices you pay for a CFD can be very low, as low as $1,000 in some cases.

The people who usually deal in CFDs are brokers. The details of the contracts themselves can be a little complicated, especially if you have only started. The market for CFDs are also highly unregulated and do not appear in exchanges. This is why a broker is the best option if you want to deal with these trades.


Lack of regulations for CFDs

The lack of regulations in the market can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can pretty much set up any sort of trade you desire with the help of a broker, but on the other hand, you have nothing to fall back on if your trade was less trustworthy. This is why finding a trusted broker is of utmost importance when deciding on investing in a CFD. It also means that CFDs are not available in certain markets, like the United States, as we mentioned earlier. This is because they are not always seen as trustworthy investments, as you are not trading in real assets.

Trading on margin

The other benefit of investing in CFDs is that brokers often offer trading on margin or leverage. What does this mean? To put it simply, brokers will allow you to make trades with a loan. So the margin of a trade is the price you will have to pay out of the entire investment. The margin for CFDs can vary considerably, from 1 to 20%. This means that you can pay a very small portion of the full investment of a CFD. If you do want to make larger investments, the potential full investment can be that much higher. This allows you to make much larger profits, as the only additional fee you need to pay is the interest on the loan. You are not required to pay the profits made with the loan to the broker.

The lack of an expiration date does come at an unfortunate cost. If the value of an underlying asset is going in the opposite direction to which you wanted, you will have to pay a premium. A broker may worry about the potential failure of your investment so will need something to reassure them. This premium is known as a margin call.

The cost of brokers

Brokers also have several forms of payment. This usually includes commissions (usually low), spreads, and flat fees for things like marketing and advice. If you are new to trading, you may not yet be familiar with how spreads work. Basically, there will be a slight difference between the price you pay a broker for a trade, and the actual price of a trade. They will make you pay a little more when you buy, and give you a little less when you sell. They will then make a profit from these small differences.


In the world of CFD trading, spreads can be quite large. All of these fees for a broker can stack up and leave you with considerable fees. This is why if you are investing in CFDs unless you are sure you are making a great investment, your net profits will probably be low. This is especially true if you are paying the minimum prices without margin.


So overall, CFDs are a slightly unusual type of derivative. They allow you to make trades without owning an underlying asset but will allow you to trade when you please. This can be very attractive to first time traders, as it allows them to act as though they are making normal trades. This, combined with low prices and use of margins, makes this an accessible investment. However, the fees associated with a CFD can be high, and one should not expect to make great profits. They are great for first time traders, as they allow them to learn how the market works, even if they do not make great profits. From there on traders can decide if they want to make larger investments in CFDs, or try an altogether different type of investment.

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