How to benefit from stock futures
You are bullish on a stock say Satyam, which is currently quoting at Rs 280 per share. You believe that in one month it will touch Rs 330.
Question: What do you do?
Answer: You buy Satyam.
Effect: It touches Rs 330 as you predicted – you made a profit of Rs 50 on an investment of Rs 280 i.e. a Return of 18% in one month – Fantastic!!
Wait: Can it get any better?
Question: What should you do?
Answer: Buy Satyam Futures instead.
Effect: On buying Satyam Futures, you get the same position as Satyam in the cash market, but you pay a margin and not the entire amount. For example, if the margin is 20%, you would pay only Rs 56. If Satyam goes upto Rs 330, you will still earn Rs 50 as profit. Now that translates into a fabulous return of 89% in one month.
Unbelievable!! But True nevertheless!!
This is the advantage of ‘leverage’ which Stock Futures provide. By investing a small margin (ranging from 10 to 25%), you can get into the same positions as you would be able to in the cash market. The returns therefore get accordingly multiplied.
Question: What are the risks?
Answer: The risks are that losses will be get leveraged or multiplied in the same manner as profits do. For example, if Satyam drops from Rs 280 to Rs 250, you would make a loss of Rs 30. The Rs 30 loss would translate to an 11% loss in the cash market and a 54% loss in the Futures market.
Question: How can I reduce such losses?
Answer: It is very easy to reduce/minimize such losses if you keep a sharp eye on the market. Suppose, you are bullish and you hence buy Satyam futures. But Satyam futures start moving down after you have bought. You can square up your position at any point of time thereafter. You can buy at 10: 30 in the morning and sell off at 11: 00 on the same day. There is no restriction at all.
Thus, by squaring up early enough you could stem your possible losses.
Question: How long do Futures last and when do they expire?
Answer: Futures expire on the last Thursday of every month. For example, January Futures will expire on 31st January (last Thursday).
Question: What is the implication of expiry?
Answer: Suppose you have bought January Futures on Satyam and have not squared up till the end. On 31st January, your Futures will be compulsorily sold at the closing cash market price of Satyam and your profit or loss will be paid out or demanded from you as the case may be.
Question: Apart from leverage, how can I use Futures?
Answer: A great advantage of Futures (at the moment) is that they are not linked to ‘delivery’ which means, you can sell Futures (short sell) of Satyam even if you do not have any shares of Satyam. Thus, you can benefit from a downturn as well as from an upturn.
If you predict an upturn, you should buy Futures and if you predict a downturn, you can always sell Futures – thus you can make money in a falling market as well as in a rising one – an opportunity that till recently was available only to brokers/operators and not easily to retail investors.
Question: How can I do vyaj badla through Futures?
Answer: In vyaj badla, your broker used to buy shares at a lower rate and immediately sell the same shares at a slightly higher rate generating a return for you. For example, he would buy Satyam at Rs 150 and sell at Rs 152 generating a return of Rs 2 for you. This would effectively generate a certain yield per annum on your investment. Badla sessions used to be held on Saturdays and one badla transaction would typically run for one week.
In futures, such badla opportunities arise constantly – thus futures can be understood as ‘badla on tap’. You should look for opportunities where futures prices are higher than cash prices. For example, if Satyam is quoting at Rs 250 in the cash market and one month Satyam futures are quoting at Rs 253 in the futures market, you can earn Rs 3 as difference. You will then buy Satyam in the cash market and at the same time, sell Satyam one month futures.
On or around the expiry day (last Thursday of each month), you will square up both the positions, i.e. you will sell Satyam in the cash market and buy futures. The two prices will be the same (or very nearly the same) as cash and futures prices will converge on expiry. It does not matter to you what the price is. You will make your profit of Rs 3 anyway.
For example, if the price is Rs 270, you will make a profit of Rs 20 on selling your Cash market Satyam and a loss of Rs 17 on buying back Satyam futures. The net profit is Rs 3. On the other hand, if the price is Rs 225, you make a loss of Rs 25 on selling Cash market Satyam and a profit of Rs 28 on Satyam futures. The net profit remains Rs 3.
Your investment in this transaction will be Rs 250 on cash market Satyam plus a margin of say 20% on Satyam futures (say Rs 50 approx). Thus an investment of Rs 300 has generated a return of Rs 3 i.e. 1% per month or 12% per annum.
Now take a situation where only 15 days are left for expiry and you spot the same opportunity as above. You will still generate Rs 3 which will translate into a return of 2% per month or 24% per annum.
In this manner, you will generate returns whenever the futures prices are above cash market prices.
Question: What precautions should I take in such transactions and what risks am I exposed to?
Answer: You need to factor in brokerage costs and demat charges for the above transactions. The net returns should be considered for decision making purposes.
There is an execution risk in the sense that you might not get exactly the same price in the cash market and the futures market when you square up on or around the last day. For example, if you sell your Cash market Satyam shares for Rs 270 and buy back Satyam futures at Rs 270.20, there is a small difference of Rs 0.20 which will affect your net profit. This impact might be favourable or adverse but is nevertheless possible. It is however quite likely that the difference might be very small on or around the last day.
Question: Do I need to wait till the last day?
Answer: No – you might find profitable exit opportunities much before the last day also. For example, if the price of Satyam shares is Rs 240 after 3 days and Satyam futures are quoted at Rs 241, you could very exit both positions. You will make a loss of Rs 10 on cash market and a profit of Rs 12 on futures, resulting in a net profit of Rs 2.