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“So How do I actually Trade Futures?”

  • 1Open an account with a futures broker and make a deposit into your account.
  • 2Decide on the future you are interested in trading, and find the symbol. Remember, futures have an expiry. Usually traders select the future with the closest expiry to the current trading date. So for example, if today is April, then I will trade the June ES mini contract, not September’s as the highest liquidity would be in June. The symbol would be ESM6.
  • 3First chose the type of order you will be placing:
    • aStandard: will execute 1 order
    • bOrder Sends Order (OSO): 1 main order is executed, and then 2 additional orders can be placed based on whether the main order is executed or not.
    • cOrder Cancels Order (OCO): A standard order is executed first, then the trader can add an OCO to add 2 additional conditional orders.
  • 4Choose the direction: Buy (also called bid) a futures contract if you believe the price will rise above the current level. Once the order is filled you are now “long” your position. Sell (also called offer) a futures contract if you believe the price will fall below the current level. Once the order is filled you are now “short” your position.
  • 5Order Type (these are the most common order types used. There exist more types of orders):
    • aMarket Order: This order is executed immediately and as long as there are willing buyers and sellers, the order will be filled. This type of order is used when getting in the trade is more important over exact price of execution. There is no control over the price received when placing a market order, and thus the price at which the order was executed can be different from the last price quoted.
    • bLimit Order: This type of order gives the trader control over what price the trade is executed, but if the price is never met, the order may never be filled. For example, a buy-limit order would be placed when the security is trading at a higher price than the trader would like to buy at. A sell-limit order would be placed when the security is trading lower than the price the trader would like to sell at.
    • cStop Order: These types of orders are used 80% of the time by SizeTrade as protection from loss. For example a sell-stop order will be used to protect losses when a trader has gone long (i.e. bought futures). A buy-stop order will be used to protect losses when a trader has shorted his position (i.e. sold futures). They can also be used to sell when the price of a security goes down to a certain price, or to buy when the price of a security goes up to a certain price.

Let’s take a classic example of an order placed with proper stops. In the following 2 examples, the limit order is used as the initial order to get into the trade. It is used again as the order to secure profits, while the stop order is used as a protection from losses.

The ES June contract is trading currently at 2002, and the trader would like to get long at 2000 and risk 4 points to make 4 points. Here is how he would execute the order.

OSO
Main Buy ESM6 limit 2000 (i.e buy the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes down to 2000)
Other Sell ESM6 limit 2004 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, sell the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes up to 2004 for a 4 point profit)
OCO Sell ESM6 stop 1996 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, sell the ES June 2016 contract if the price goes down to 1996 for a 4 point loss, as protection)

Let’s look at an example where the trader would like to short his position, risk 4 points to make 4 points. The ES June contract is trading currently at 2003. The trader would like to short the ES at 2004, and risk 4 points to make 4 points. Here is how he would execute the order.

OSO
MainSell ESM6 limit 2004 (i.e. sell the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes up to 2004)
OtherBuy ESM6 limit 2000 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, buy the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes down to 2000 for a 4 point profit)
OCOBuy ESM6 stop 2008 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, buy the ES June 2016 contract if the price goes up to 2008 for a 4 point loss, as protection)

Occasionally a trader would like to sell as a security is going down, or buy as the security is going up. In the following 2 examples, the stop order is used as the initial order to get into the trade. The limit order is used as the order to secure profits, while the stop order is used as a protection from losses.

So for example the ES June contract is trading currently at 2002, and the trader would like to get long at 2004 and risk 4 points to make 4 points. Here is how he would execute the order:

OSO
MainBuy ESM6 Stop 2004 (i.e. buy the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes up to 2004)
OtherSell ESM6 limit 2008 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, sell the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes up to 2008 for a 4 points profit)
OCOSell ESM6 stop 2000 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, sell the ES June 2016 contract if the price goes down to 2000 for a 4 point loss, as protection)

Or the ES June contract is currently trading at 2004 and the trader would like to get short at 2002 while risking 4 points to make 4 points. Here is how he would execute the order:

OSO
MainSell ESM6 Stop 2002 (i.e. sell the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes down to 2002)
OtherBuy ESM6 limit 1998 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, buy the ES June 2016 contract when the prices goes down to 1998 for a 4 point profit)
OCOBuy ESM6 stop 2006 (i.e. only if the main order is executed, buy the ES June 2016 contract when the price goes up to 2006 for a 4 point loss)