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  • How to Read Futures Price Tables


    Price is the key statistic generated by futures markets, although the volume of trade and the number of outstanding contracts (open interest) also are important. Prices are available from a variety of sources, including many daily newspapers. Most papers also report volume and open interest.

    Since wire services and newspapers vary in their format and terminology, here we will describe price-reporting formats in general terms, using CBOT Corn Futures Prices as an example.

    CBOT Corn Futures Prices

    -GRAINS AND OILSEEDS-

    Corn (CBOT) 5,000 bu.; cents per bu.

     

    Open

    High

    Low

    Settle

    Change

    Lifetime
    High

    Lifetime
    Low

    Open
    Interest

    May (this year)

    252.00

    252.75

    250.75

    278.00

    -.25

    285.00

    228.00

    4233

    July

    258.00

    258.75

    256.50

    258.00

    -.25

    285.50

    232.50

    141648

    Sept

    262.75

    263.50

    261.50

    262.00

    .....

    270.50

    238.00

    33922

    Dec

    266.25

    267.50

    264.75

    266.75

    .....

    268.00

    235.50

    141307

    March (next year)

    272.50

    273.50

    271.00

    272.75

    .....

    274.00

    249.50

    14723

    May

    276.25

    277.00

    275.00

    276.75

    .....

    277.75

    259.50

    1352

    July

    278.25

    279.25

    277.25

    278.75

    .....

    280.00

    254.00

    7351

    Dec

    253.75

    253.75

    252.75

    253.50

    .....

    258.50

    239.00

    4373


    Est. vol 38,000; vol Wed 38,592; open int 348,967 + 987

    The third line of the table reads as follows: "Corn (CBOT) 5,000 bu; cents per bu." and means that the table applies to the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) corn contract and the contract size is 5,000 bushels. The prices shown in the table are in units of cents per bushel, so 252.75 cents means $2.52 and three quarters of a cent per bushel.

    The open or opening price is the price or range of prices for the day's first trades, registered during the period designated as the opening of the market or the opening call. In our example, this year’s May corn on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) opened at $2.52 per bushel. Many publications print only a single price for the market open or close regardless of whether there was a range with trades at several prices.

    The word high refers to the highest price at which a commodity futures contract traded during the day. The high price for this year's May corn was $2.52 and ¾ cents per bushel.

    Low refers to the lowest price at which a commodity futures contract traded during the day. The low price for May corn was $2.50 and ¾ cents per bushel.

    Some publications show a close or closing price in their tables. The closing price is the price or range of prices at which the commodity futures contract traded during the brief period designated as the market close or on the closing call—that is, the last minute of the trading day.

    Because the last few minutes of trading are often the busiest part of the day, with many trades occurring simultaneously, the exchange computes a settlement price from the range of closing prices. The settlement price, which is abbreviated as settle in most pricing tables, is used by the clearing house to calculate the market value of outstanding positions held by its members. It is also frequently used synonymously with closing price; although they may, in fact, differ.

    The change refers to the change in settlement prices from the previous day's close to the current day's close. The -.25 change for July corn indicates that the previous day's settlement price must have been 258.25 (i.e., 258 +).

    The lifetime high and low refer to the highest and lowest prices recorded for each contract maturity from the first day it traded to the present.

    Open interest refers to the number of outstanding contracts for each maturity month. Some newspapers do not include this information.

    At the end of the table another line of information appears: Est. vol 38,000; vol Wed 38,592; open int 348,967 + 987. Est. vol indicates that the estimated volume of trading for that day was 38,000 contracts. Vol Wed means that the trading volume for the previous day was 38,592 contracts. Open Int refers to the total open interest for all contract months combined at the end of the day's trading session. The 348,967 open contracts represent an increase of 987 contracts from the open interest of the previous day at the close.

    Some publications may differ slightly in their report format (for example, quoting grain prices in dollars per bushel rather than cents per bushel). Also, some newspapers group futures contracts by exchange, while others group them according to the type of commodity (for example, metals, grains, food-stuffs, or financial).

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