Types of Margins in Commodity Futures Trading

Posted By: Staff
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Dealing in commodities is an age-old profession. Ancient civilizations traded on a wide array of commodities ranging from spices, agricultural produce, livestock, gold, precious stones and so on. Commodity trading was an essential business since time immemorial. It is due to the dealing with commodities that the people from west started to explore the sea path to reach east.

What is a Commodity?

A commodity is a basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type. Commodities are most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services.

The quality of a given commodity may differ slightly, but it is essentially uniform across producers. When they are traded on an exchange, commodities must also meet specified minimum standards, also referred to as a basis grade.

Example of commodities which are used as the mediums of exchange includes gold, silver, copper, salt, tea, peppercorns, decorated belts, shells, alcohol, candy, nails, cocoa beans, barley and so on.

Commodities linked to food, energy or metals play a very important role in the day to day activities of a common mans life.

For Example: If anyone drives a two-wheeler, then the rise in the crude oil prices will definitely have an impact on the individual.

Types of Commodities

Basically, commodities can be classified under the below mentioned four categories. They are:

• Metals - gold, silver, copper, platinum
• Energy - natural oil and gasoline, heating oil, crude oil
• Livestock & meat - live cattle, feeder cattle, lean hogs, pork bellies
• Agricultural - wheat, rice, cocoa, corn, soya beans, coffee, cotton, sugar

Margin & Its Types

To trade in a futures contract, you need to deposit a certain percentage of the total contract value with the exchange as a security deposit. This sum is known as 'Margin'.

The percentage can vary for different commodities and is decided by the exchange.

There are basically four types of margins -

• initial margin
• mark-to-market margin
• special margin
• delivery period margin

Initial Margin

When a commodity trader opens a trading account with a broker, he or she is required to put down a capital sum to initiate a trade.

This acts as a collateral which allows the commodity trader to enter into the futures market. It is refundable at delivery, exercise, expiry or squaring off, depending on the profit or gain on the trade.

The initial margin must be maintained throughout the time that the position is open.

If the value of underlying commodity falls below the margin, you need to top up your account with additional margin to hold the particular commodity.

For commodity futures margins can be in the range 2-15% of contract value.


Mark-to-market, also called as M2M is the margin that is calculated on each trading day by taking the difference between the closing price of a contract on that particular day and the price at which the trade was initiated.

In other words, its the practice of crediting or debiting a trader's account based on the daily closing prices of the futures contracts he is holding.

Mark-to-market margin is calculated on daily basis to find out the profit or loss on the open futures position.

If there is a profit, the amount is transferred from the clearinghouse to your trading account by the broker, and in case of loss, the amount is transferred by the broker from your trading account to the clearinghouse.

For example, if one buys futures of Rs 5000 and its price fall to Rs 4500. Then s/he has to pay an M2M margin of Rs 500 to take the position in the future.

Special Margin

With a view to controlling price volatility and the breach of the daily circuit (the maximum permissible daily movement against the previous closing price on either side), Exchange has introduced the system of Special Margin.

The purpose of this margin is to control excessive speculation and to protect the interest of common traders and investors.

This will be applicable for all the traders who have an open position and they can't trade further unless this special margin amount is paid.

Delivery Margin

When the contract approaches delivery period i.e. last five days before the expiry date of the contract, the exchange requires the buyers and sellers to put additional margins.

Usually, it is 25 percent of the total contract value and is subject to change by the exchange. The delivery margin percentage is different for each commodity.

Read more about: investment, commodities, futures, trading
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