Futures Trading 101: Symbols, Contract Months, Expiration and Specifications

Futures Months 

  • January – F
  • February -G
  • March – H
  • April – J
  • May – K
  • June – M
  • July – N
  • August Q-
  • September – U
  • October – V
  • November – X
  • December – Z

Futures Contracts Months Codes

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JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
F G H J K M
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
N Q U V X Z

Futures Symbols 101

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GC Z 18
CONTRACT SYMBOL (Gold) EXPIRATION MONTH (December) EXPIRATION YEAR (2018)

Introduction – what is Futures Trading 

Futures Trading – The futures market is a volatile and rewarding market. Uniquely labeled and with meaning behind each character, understanding the language behind the futures market is critical to one’s success in trading. This blog post will delve into and decode the meaning behind the symbols in futures contracts and thus aid you on your path to understanding futures contracts.

To start, we will look at the way futures are denoted. The way that futures contracts are labeled is first by the symbol of the contract, then the symbol for what month the contract expires, and finally the year in which the contract expires.

For example, a gold future that expires in December 2018 would have the symbol: GCZ18 (GC December 2018).

Futures Symbols 101

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GC Z 18
CONTRACT SYMBOL (Gold) EXPIRATION MONTH (December) EXPIRATION YEAR (2018)

In the world of trading futures there are many different letters and symbols that correspond to different futures contracts, months of expiry, and exchanges which are denoted in the following graphics.

Futures Month Symbols

Futures Contracts Months Codes

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JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
F G H J K M
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
N Q U V X Z

Below you can find the symbols associated with each month of expiry for future contracts. While the letters might seem erratically dispersed, this is most likely because the preceding letters already have associations in trading contexts ( A= Ask, B= Bid, C= Corn, E=Eggs, O= Oats, S= Soybeans, W= Wheat etc.). This leaves the remaining letters for the months of the year. However, the original future trading commodities dealt with agricultural resources, therefore corn and wheat are represented, while crude oil is not. While this explanation seems probable, there is no definitive reason for the letter choices but they are still globally accepted as the correct symbols.

Futures Specifications Explained

Futures Specifications Explained

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
DJ Dow Jones Industrials CBOT H, M, U, Z 1.000 $3.550 $10
ND Nasdaq 100 CME H, M, U, Z 0.250 $4.290 $25
SP S&P 500 CME H, M, U, Z 0.050 $4.200 $12.5

Below you can find the symbols associated with every kind of futures contract, whether they are exchanges, the month of delivery, the minimum tick size/price shift, and the $-value (amount of profit or loss incurred with each tick). You can also find the initial margin of each futures contract, which signifies the minimum amount to be available in your account as collateral for each contract that you have an open position on. When you purchase a futures contract, the initial margin is the minimum amount of money that must be deposited into your account which is refunded with any gains or losses when your contract is liquidated. The amount in this margin account fluctuates daily in response to the market in relation to your futures contract.

What is “Min Tick”?

Min Tick is the minimum movement that is captured for a given instrument. For instance, if the Tick is 0.01 this means the minimum price movement that will be recorded is 0.01.
For example, CL (the futures contract for oil) is trading today at 67.01 and the minimum change in price that will be recorded is from 67.01 to 67.02 or from 67.01 to 67.00 this is the definition of Min Tick being 0.01

What is “Tick Value”?

This means how much each tick movement is worth. For example, assume we are talking about the futures contract for oil which is denoted as CL. The definition of the oil contract size is for 1000 barrels. Thus since the “Tick” is 0.01 the tick value is equal to the contract size multiplied by minimum tick, in our oil contract example 0.01*1000 =$10. In summary; Tick Value = Tick*Contract Size.

Futures Symbol List

Currencies

 

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
AD Australian Dollar CME H, M, U, Z 0.010 $1.430 $10
BP British Pound CME H, M, U, Z 0.010 $2.310 $6.25
CD Canadian Dollar CME H, M, U, Z 0.010 $1.045 $10
DX US Dollar Index ICE H, M, U, Z 0.010 $1.980 $10
EU EuroFx CME H, M, U, Z 0.010 $2.310 $12.5
JU Japanese Yen CME H, M, U, Z 0.010 $3.300 $12.5
SF Swiss Franc CME H, M, U, Z 0.010 $3.438 $12.5

Energies

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
CL Crude Oil NYM F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.010 $2.750 $10
HO NY Harbor ULSD/Heating oil NYM F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.010 $3.300 $4.2
HU Unleaded Gas NYM F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.010 $3.150 $4.2
NG Natural Gas NYM F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.001 $2.090 $1
RB RBOB Gasoline NYM F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.010 $3.520 $4.2
ITCO/BRN Brent Crude ICE F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.010 $4.070 $10

Meats

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
FC Feeder Cattle CME F, H, J, K, Q, U, V, X 0.025 $4.263 $12.5
LC Live Cattle CME G, J, M, Q, U, V, Z 0.025 $2.255 $10
HE Lean Hogs CME G, J, K, M, N, Q, V, Z 0.025 $1.320 $10
DA Milk class III CME F, G, H, J, K, M, N, Q, U, V, X, Z 0.010 $1.300 $20

Grains & Soy Complex

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
BO Soybean Oil CBOT F, H, K, N, Q, U, V, Z 0.010 $935 $6
C Corn CBOT F, H, K, N, U, X, Z 0.250 $935 $12.5
KW Kansas City Wheat KCBT H, K, N, U, Z 0.250 $1.250 $12.5
MW Minneapolis Wheat MGE H, K, N, U, Z 0.250 $2.250 $12.5
O Oats CBOT H, K, N, U, Z 0.250 $880 $12.5
S Soybeans CBOT F, H, K, N, Q, U, X 0.250 $2.310 $12.5
SM Soybeans Meal CBOT F, H, K, N, Q, U, V, Z 0.100 $1.980 $10
W Wheat CBOT H, K, N, U, Z 0.250 $1.320 $12.5

Metals

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
GC Gold CMX G, J, M, Q, V, Z 0.100 $4.345 $10
HG Copper CMX H, K, N, U, Z 0.050 $2.640 $12.5
PL Platinum NYM F, J, N, V 0.100 $2.090 $5
SI Silver CMX H, K, N, U, Z 0.005 $5.500 $0.25

Interest Rates

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
ED Eurodollars CME H, M, U, Z 0.005 $3.850 $12.5
FV 5-Yr T-Notes CBOT H, M, U, Z 0.016 $770 $15.625
MB Municipal Bonds CBOT H, M, U, Z 0.031 $3.150 $31.25
TU 2-Yr T-Notes CBOT H, M, U, Z 0.008 $462 $15.625
TY 10-Yr T-Notes CBOT H, M, U, Z 0.016 $1.430 $15.625
US 30-Yr T-Notes CBOT H, M, U, Z 0.031 $3.850 $31.25

Soft & Fibers

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SYMBOL FUTURE CONTRACT EXCHANGE FUTURES DELIVERY MONTH MIN TICK INITIAL MARGIN TICK $ VALUE
RR Rice CBOT F, H, K, N, U, X 0.500 $975 $50
CC Cocoa ICE H, K, N, U, Z 1.000 $1.595 $10
CT Cotton ICE H, K, N, U, Z 0.010 $2.530 $5
KC Coffee ICE H, K, N, U, Z 0.050 $2.970 $18.75
LB Lumber CME F, H, K, N, U, X 0.100 $1.595 $11
JO Orange Juice ICE F, H, K, N, U, X 0.050 $1.600 $7.5
SB Sugar #11 ICE H, K, N, V 0.010 $1.232 $11.2

Conclusion

Overall, the Futures Market is a bit more difficult to begin trading in, due to the specific terminology and highly competitive nature. However, associated with the large risk is the chance to succeed with high profits as well. The advantages posed by futures are not attractive to every trader due to the specific nature of futures and aforementioned challenges, but by remaining informed and adhering to a strong trading strategy one is easily able to stay ahead of the curve by understanding and avoiding mistakes.

BONUS – Desktop Background – Futures Trading

Futures symbols months desktop background, oil, sp500, gold, silver, natural gas

 

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