Currency futures are specific types of forward outright deals which occupy in general a small part of the Forex market (See Figure 3.1). Because they are derived from the spot price, they are derivative instruments. They are specific with regard to the expiration date and the size of the trade amount. Whereas, generally, forward outright deals—those that mature past the spot delivery date—will mature on any valid date in the two countries whose currencies are being traded, standardized amounts of foreign currency futures mature only on the third Wednesday of March, June, September, and December.
There is a row of characteristics of currency futures, which make them attractive. It is open to all market participants, individuals included. This is different from the spot market, which is virtually closed to individuals – except high net-worth individuals—because of the size of the currency amounts traded. It is a central market, just as efficient as the cash market, and whereas the cash market is a very decentralized market, futures trading takes place under one roof. It eliminates the credit risk because the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Clearinghouse acts as the buyer for every seller, and vice versa. In turn, the Clearinghouse minimizes its own exposure by requiring traders who maintain a non-profitable position to post margins equal in size to their losses.
Moreover, currency futures provide several benefits for traders because futures are special types of forward outright contracts, corporations can use them for hedging purposes. Although the futures and spot markets trade closely together, certain divergences between the two occur, generating arbitraging opportunities. Gaps, volume, and open interest are significant technical analysis tools solely available in the futures market. Yet their significance extrapolates to the spot market as well. Because of these benefits, currency futures trading volume has steadily attracted a large variety of players.
For traders outside the exchange, the prices are available from on-line monitors. The most popular pages are found on Bridge, Telerate, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Telerate presents the currency futures on composite pages, while Reuters and Bloomberg display currency futures on individual pages shows the convergence between the futures and spot prices.