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What are the common terms used in commodity trading?

Understanding Common Terms Used In Commodity Trading


Commodity trading is a crucial part of the global financial landscape, offering a range of opportunities for traders and investors to diversify their portfolios and hedge against risks. However, as with any financial market, the commodity trading sphere has a unique language of its own that any serious participant needs to understand. We shall walk through some of the most common terms used in this robust market, which will be beneficial for beginners and advanced investors alike.


This is arguably the most fundamental term in this field. A commodity is a basic good or raw material that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type. They are primarily used in the production of other goods or services. Commodities can be categorized into four types: Energy (oil, gas), Metals (gold, silver), Livestock and Meat, and Agricultural (corn, wheat).


A derivative is a financial instrument whose value is based on the price of an underlying asset—in this case, a commodity. The major derivative contracts in commodity trading are futures, options, and swaps.

Futures Contract

A futures contract is a standardized agreement to buy or sell a particular commodity at a future date and at a predetermined price. These contracts are traded on a futures exchange and are commonly used for hedging risk and speculation.

Spot Price

The spot price is the current market price at which a commodity can be bought or sold for immediate delivery and payment. It represents the fair value of a commodity at any given time.

Forward Contract

This is a private (not traded on an exchange) customizable agreement to buy or sell a specific amount of a commodity at a certain price on a specific future date. It’s typically used by producers and consumers of a commodity to hedge against future price changes.


An option is a derivative contract that gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call option) or sell (put option) a specific amount of a commodity at a predetermined price within a specified timeframe.

Physical Delivery and Cash Settlement

Some derivative contracts, like futures and options, might lead to the physical delivery of the commodity, where the commodity itself must be delivered upon contract expiration. However, many contracts are cash-settled, meaning participants settle the difference in cash instead of physical delivery.

Commodity Exchange

A commodity exchange is a marketplace where traders buy and sell commodity derivatives and other financial instruments. Notable examples include the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT).


A margin is an amount of money necessary to open and maintain a leveraged trading position. In commodity trading, margins act as a type of collateral to ensure contract obligations can be met.

Contango and Backwardation

Contango is a commodity market condition where futures prices are higher than spot prices, often due to costs related to storing and insuring the commodity. Backwardation refers to the opposite condition, where futures prices are lower than spot prices. This can occur when there is a short-term supply shortage or when commodity users are willing to pay a premium to secure a future supply.


While this list is not exhaustive, it offers a solid introduction to the language of commodity trading. Not only are these terms fundamental for beginners to learn, but understanding them will also enable more seasoned traders and investors to deploy more efficient and effective trading strategies in the commodity market. Therefore, make sure to familiarize yourself with the above terms to enhance your understanding and navigation of the lucrative commodity market.