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Difference Between Futures And Options

In the sphere of Indian financial markets, two commonly discussed and utilized derivatives instruments stand out: Futures and Options. These financial tools provide traders and investors with distinct methods to manage risk and make informed predictions about the price movements of various underlying assets, including stocks, indices, commodities, and currencies. However, understanding the variances between futures and options is pivotal before delving into these markets.


Futures contracts are financial agreements that require the buyer to purchase and the seller to sell a specified quantity of an underlying asset at a predetermined price on a future date. In India, this future date usually aligns with the last Thursday of the contract’s expiry month.

Key features of futures include:

Obligation: Futures contracts are binding and necessitate both parties to fulfil their obligations upon contract expiry.

Unrestricted Risk: Trading futures can be riskier as it exposes the trader to potentially limitless losses.

Margin Requirement: Traders must deposit an initial margin, a fraction of the contract’s total value, to initiate a futures position.

Example: If you opt to trade Nifty 50 futures, you commit to buying or selling a predetermined quantity of the Nifty 50 index at a specific price on the expiry date.


Options, conversely, provide the buyer with the right but not the obligation to buy (Call option) or sell (Put option) an underlying asset at a predetermined price (strike price) within a specified time frame. Key characteristics of options are:

Flexibility: Options grant the buyer the flexibility to choose whether or not to exercise their rights based on market conditions.

Restricted Risk: The risk in options trading is confined to the premium paid to purchase the option.

No Margin Requirement: Unlike futures, options do not necessitate an initial margin.

Example: Purchasing a Call option on Tata Motors grants you the right to buy Tata Motors shares at a specified price within a given timeframe, but you are not compelled to do so.

Read: Is Futures Or Options A Smart Choice For Momentum Trading?


Visualize an investor who believes that the stock of a prominent Indian company, Indian Hotels, will rise in the next three months. They have two choices – they can either buy Indian Hotels futures or Indian Hotels call options. If they opt for the futures contract, they are obligated to purchase Indian Hotels shares at a specific price on the contract’s expiry date, potentially resulting in substantial losses if the stock price falls.

In contrast, if they choose Indian Hotels call options, they have the right to buy the shares at a predetermined price but are not required to do so. In this situation, the investor’s risk is limited to the premium paid for the option, making it a more adaptable and less risky choice.

In conclusion, while both futures and options present unique opportunities in the Indian financial market, they cater to different risk appetites and trading strategies. Futures involve more substantial obligations and the potential for higher rewards, but they also carry more significant risks.

Options, on the other hand, offer flexibility and limited risk, making them suitable for risk-averse traders. Understanding these differences is indispensable for anyone aiming to effectively participate in the Indian derivatives market.

Choosing Between Options and Futures in a Downtrend

In investing, the primary aim is to capitalize on the upward trajectory of stock prices over time, thereby securing capital gains. However, savvy traders are adept at leveraging both upward and downward market trends using financial instruments known as derivatives. Among these, short positions hold a particular efficiency within the derivatives market, especially when compared to traditional spot trading. But within this realm of derivatives, a crucial question arises: which holds more efficiency, options or futures?

Analyzing Payoff Dynamics

Futures contracts offer a symmetrical payoff structure, closely mirroring the movement of the underlying asset both upwards and downwards. On the contrary, options present an asymmetric payoff profile, where the potential upside outweighs the downside risk. This discrepancy is particularly pronounced in long option positions, where the upside potential is significantly higher than the potential loss. However, for short positions in calls, the maximum gain is capped at the premium collected initially, presenting a narrower scope for profit.

Evaluating Expected Returns

Determining the expected return on futures involves calculating the variance between the short futures price and the price target. This figure is then compared with the premium collected on short calls, with a preference towards the position offering a higher expected return. However, when dealing with options, the concept of time decay becomes paramount. As the time value of an option diminishes towards expiry, a portion of the return on short calls is derived from this decline in time value. Yet, the achievement of the price target before expiry may result in lower gains, necessitating the closure of the short position before optimal gains are realized.

Considering Margin Requirements

Both futures and options entail specific margin requirements, dictating the initial capital outlay for each strategy. Short futures positions demand an initial margin, while short options necessitate upfront premium payment. Despite the substantial margin requirements for both, the return on investment must be assessed relative to the capital deployed. Given the restricted maximum gain on short calls, opting for a short futures position might prove more advantageous, aligning better with the capital employed.

Exploring Alternatives

To mitigate the inherent risk associated with naked short calls, traders can explore alternative strategies such as bear call spreads. By simultaneously shorting a lower strike call and longing a higher strike call, this approach reduces risk exposure while minimizing initial margin requirements. However, the expected gains are correspondingly reduced, limited solely to the net credit.

Making Informed Decisions

For traders with a penchant for frequent activity and a disciplined approach to risk management, short futures positions often emerge as the preferred choice. Offering a one-to-one correlation with underlying asset movement and independence from immediate or expiry-based price targets, futures positions provide a robust alternative to naked short calls, ensuring strategic alignment with trading objectives.


Disclaimer: This blog has been written exclusively for educational purposes. The securities mentioned are only examples and not recommendations. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet and is subject to changes. Please consult an expert before making related decisions.
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