Updated on April 11, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Arbitrage Meaning

Arbitrage is an act of generating income from trading a certain currency, security, or commodity in two different markets. The arbitrageurs reap a margin from the varying price of the same commodity in two different exchanges or markets.

It is a practice that takes advantage of market inefficiency. The same commodity, currency, or asset is priced differently in two or more distinct markets. It indirectly improves the markets by highlighting loopholes. But as soon as the market makes those improvements, the profitability for the arbitrageurs terminates.

Key Takeaways

  • Arbitrageurs procure commodities, security, or currency at a low price from one market. They then sell it in a market where the same commodity is priced higher. The difference between the prices yields profits.
  • In the US, arbitrage is not prohibited by law. Instead, it is stimulated as it exposes market inefficiencies, facilitates market corrections, and establishes price uniformity.
  • The associated risks are low, but so are the profits. Most such opportunities are already exhausted; market is rapidly becoming more competent.


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Arbitrage Explained

Arbitrage refers to the process of making meager profits by concurrent buying and selling of securities in different markets or exchanges. A spread is a variation in the prices of a single security, currency, or commodity in two different markets or exchanges; it is also considered the arbitrageur’s profit.

While the arbitrageurs try to take advantage of market incompetency, they end up pinpointing pricing errors for a particular stock. As a result, markets actually end up improving. But consequently, as soon as the market makes those improvements, the profitability for the arbitrageurs terminates.

Usually, arbitrageurs are huge financial institutionsFinancial InstitutionsFinancial institutions refer to those organizations which provide business services and products related to financial or monetary transactions to their clients. Some of these are banks, NBFCs, investment companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies and trust corporations. read more that invest hefty funds into the buying and selling of commodities, assets, or currencies. They operate in two different markets. Also, the arbitrageur has to make several trades to generate a decent profit because prices do not vary substantially when the markets are efficient. As a result, arbitrageurs have to discover new opportunities continuously.

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Arbitrage Examples

Example #1

To understand the arbitrage process, let us look at some examples. Assume that a stock XYZ is listed in both markets A and B. The price of XYZ in market A is $17, but in market B, the price is 16.69 Sterling Pounds ($20). Therefore, Peterson, the arbitrageur, buys 100 XYZ stocks in market A. He spent $1700 and then sold the stocks in market B for $2000. Deducting $50 for the transactions fee, Peterson earns $250 from this trade.

Example #2

Now, let us discuss another example. Cross currency trade is a classic opportunity. Transactions take place in different currency pairs (GBP/USD) and then (USD/INR), instead of trading GBP/INR straight away. This is done to get a better price.

Let’s understand this concept with hypothetical numbers:

For example, below is the quoted priceQuoted PriceA quoted price refers to the latest trading (bid and ask) value agreed upon by traders for security. It usually appears as a notification on the online trading platforms, signifying prices of in-demand stocks, bonds, derivatives, or commodities. Exchanges express it in cents or more of three currency pairs on 1 January 2020:

Arbitrage example

In the above case derived price of GBP/INR is 96.39, obtained by multiplying with the cross-currency rate of GBP/USD and USD/INR

The above case provides an arbitrage opportunity to make risk free gain and involves the following steps:

  • Converting Pound (GBP) into dollars at the conversion rate of 1.29$;
  • Converting dollars into INR at the conversion rate of 74.72 per dollar;

Here, one GBP is converted to 96.39 INR, and then the same is sold for the quoted price of 95.83 INR to convert back into GBP. All in all, an arbitrage profit of INR 0.56 is made per pound (GBP).

Example #3

Let us look at the following Alphabet (Google) Class C shares chart to understand the concept better.


The Class C shares do not have voting power like the Class A shares. Considering that the latter shares are strictly better when compared to the former shares, they trade at a higher price. To determine the usual difference in their price, one can utilize a technical analysis indicator.

As one can observe in the above chart, it is roughly +0.5%. Thus, if there is a deviation from this percentage, an arbitrage opportunity may arise for traders as the rebalancing occurs. In case the percentage is negative, Class C shares are more expensive, and thus, one can short-sell these shares and purchase Class A shares simultaneously to make financial gains.

To find more such indicators that can detect arbitrage opportunities in the market, individuals can look for similar charts already published on the TradingView platform.

Types of Arbitrage

The different kinds of arbitrage practices are as follows:

  • Pure Arbitrage: Here, the arbitrageur takes an immediate buy-and-sell decision without blocking the funds.
  • Risk Arbitrage: Often, investors estimate a price rise of the stock and thus block the money by buying and then holding it. Basically, the investors expect a price hike in another market.
  • Retail Arbitrage: This is a common practice in e-commerce. Arbitrageurs buy a certain product at a discounted price from the local retailer and then sell it on an e-commerce website for a high price.
Merger Arbitrage

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Convertible Arbitrage - Types

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Also, the traders buy put options on the underlying stock. A Put Option is a contract that gives the buyer the right to sell the option at any point in time on or before the contract expires.

As the stock goes ex-dividend, the stock price falls to adjust for the dividend increase in the price of put options, thereby benefiting the trader. Also, the fall in stock price is adjusted by dividend receipt.

  • Futures Arbitrage: The stock is purchased in cash and sold in the futures segment. Usually, futures are priced higher than the cash price to account for the future premium. However, on expiry, both prices converge, resulting in an arbitrage profit for the trader.

Arbitrage Opportunities

Traders generate risk-free profits in two ways. First, they sell at higher prices in one stock exchange. Then, they buy the same security from another stock exchangeStock ExchangeStock exchange refers to a market that facilitates the buying and selling of listed securities such as public company stocks, exchange-traded funds, debt instruments, options, etc., as per the standard regulations and guidelines—for instance, NYSE and more at lower prices—in real-time. This way, they benefit from the price difference.

Similarly, the traders purchase an asset at a lower price from one stock exchange. Then they sell the same asset at a higher price in another stock exchange. Again, all this is done in real-time to benefit from the price difference.

Arbitrageurs use the following options to generate profits:


Although it is considered a risk-free trade, it is prone to various shortcomings discussed below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is arbitrage?

Arbitrageurs purchase a particular commodity, currency, or security at a low price in one market. They then sell it in a market where its price is slightly higher. The arbitrageurs make marginal profits through such short trades. However, this, too, lasts only till the price variations get corrected.

Is arbitrage legal?

It is done to benefit from market discrepancies; thus, it indirectly improves the markets by highlighting loopholes. Therefore, in the US, it is a legal practice. But the regulators have often narrowed the scope of arbitrage. Bettors can still gain from retail, securities, dividends, and futures. However, bettors need a thorough knowledge of traded assets and markets to make any significant profits.

What is amazon arbitrage?

It is a retail method. Amazon sellers procure a product from a retailer from the local market. They get discounted prices. Finally, they sell it on Amazon’s shopping website for a higher value.

Recommended Articles

This has been a guide to what is Arbitrage and its meaning. Here we explain how arbitrage trading works along with its types, risks, and examples. You may learn more about financing from the following articles –