What is Spread Trading: Meaning and Types | Motilal Oswal

What is Spread Trading: Meaning and Types


The significance of a well-crafted trading strategy cannot be overstated. A carefully devised trading strategy provides a roadmap, guiding your decisions and actions amidst the ever-changing economic factors, market sentiment, and global events. Your success as a trader hinges on your ability to navigate the complexities of these markets with precision and foresight using the right strategies. Spread trading is a technique that allows you to harness market inefficiencies to your advantage. Find out how spread trading works to use it effectively when trading.

What is spread trading?

Spread trading, also known as relative value trading, is a trading strategy where you sell one or more futures or options contracts while buying one or more related contracts simultaneously. This approach allows you to take advantage of the price difference between these contracts, aiming to profit from the changes in their relative values. Rather than focusing solely on the direction of individual asset prices, spread trading relies on the relationship between different contracts, potentially offering a way to benefit from market dynamics and price differentials.

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The combination of buying and selling multiple contracts forms a spread trade. Your potential profits or losses depend on how the contract price difference changes. Often referred to as "legs," the two contracts work together to create the price change you need to make a profit.  

The goal of spread trading is to make gains when the price difference narrows or widens. It is a way to capitalize on market dynamics and secure profits in a controlled manner.

Types of spread trading strategies

Here are the different types of spread trading strategies:

  • Calendar spreads

Calendar spread allows you to trade options contracts with different expiration dates. You can purchase either a CALL or a PUT option, where one option has a relatively close expiration date, and the other has an expiration date much further into the future. The option with the closer expiration date will lose value more rapidly than the option with the farther expiration date. If the price movement aligns with your predictions, you can earn profits.

  • Vertical spreads

A vertical spread is created either with all CALL options or all PUT options. This approach allows you to combine long and short options, each with distinct strike prices. All options involved must share the same expiration date. You can earn a profit if the underlying asset's price rises for CALL options and drops in PUT options. 

  • Collar spread

In this strategy, you can sell a CALL option to potentially profit from a decrease in the underlying asset's price. Simultaneously, you buy a PUT option to benefit from a potential asset price decrease. You also take a long position in the stock, which means buying the underlying asset itself.

This creates a protective collar around the stock's value and minimizes potential losses due to adverse price movements.

  • Intra-commodity spreads

In this approach, you select two seemingly distinct commodities with a particular underlying relationship. Using this strategy, you can capitalize on the price difference between these two commodities.

  • Option spread

An option spread allows you to select two different options as distinct legs. While these options differ in specific aspects, they both remain connected to similar underlying security within the spread trade. Option spreads provide a nuanced way to manage risk and potential gains.

Benefits of spread trading

You do not need specialized tools to begin spread trading. Spreads help gauge profitability, predict future prices, and determine investment costs. Various strategies rely on spreads, like making cost-effective investments, deciding based on market liquidity, improving exit precision, increasing profits, and enhancing risk management. By understanding spreads, you can use arbitrage for small price gains, practice pairs trading with long and short positions, and even speculate on price changes without owning the asset. This knowledge can empower you to make informed decisions and explore strategies that align with your goals.

To sum it up

Spread trading can offer a dynamic approach to harnessing the power of price movements and relationships. It allows you to manage risk, predict price movements, and optimize investments through various spread trading strategies to confidently navigate the unpredictable terrain of financial markets.

You can open a free Demat account with Motilal Oswal and start trading in different securities.


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