Spot Price

What is Spot Price?

A spot price is the current market price of a commodity, financial product, or derivative product. An investor or trader can buy or sell the given asset or security for immediate delivery at this same price. Put to own security, a buyer needs to pay the spot price right now, and the seller should deliver the security at that very moment. A spot price is defined by the number of buyers and sellers interested in trading in that security, commonly referred to as depth.

  • There is no mathematical formula for Spot price. It is more of an economic concept rather than a mathematical part. At any point in time, forces of demand and supply play an essential role in determining the market price. For accounting purposes, this will be reasonably uniform worldwide. It is very different from futures or forwards contracts because those are agreed upon price based on some deal.
  • It is the reference or starting point for pricing many financial products. For commodities, the spot price is added with the storage and other tangible costs. On the other hand, for financial products like futures – the spot price is added with the carry cost of that product based on the prevailing interest-free rate. There will be other factors involved, like the credit risk and market risk, but the price is most often the reference point for all this analysis.
Spot Price

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Source: Spot Price (wallstreetmojo.com)

Example of Spot Price

Consider the example of the stock price of the alphabet, which is quoting at $ 1200. This means that a trader interested in this stock needs to spend $ 1200 to own it right now. As soon as the trader does so, alphabet shares will be transferred to his account within two days.

The contract details will be recorded, and the trade will be initiated at that very moment. There is also another way by which the trader can get these shares. This can be done by buying the futures contract, which will be different depending upon the time of expiry.

At the expiry date, as per contract, a pre-decided quantity will be transferred to the trader’s account. The former concept, when the trader pays a certain amount and gets instant delivery, refers to spot price while the latter one’s price refers to the futures price.

spot price example

As shown above, the market prices change with time. In fact, it changes with time and depends on the number of buyers and sellers. When there are more buyers, the price will rise, and when sellers are more, the spot will start decreasing. So it can be said that the spot price trend reflects market participant behavior.

Spot Price – Contango and Backwardation

The spot price is used by traders to determine the trend of the security or the financial product. This is done by analyzing the current price, the futures price, and the difference between the two, which is called a basis. Under normal circumstances, one would assume that future price would be greater than the spot price. This is because leaving all factors aside, and there is something called as time value of moneyTime Value Of MoneyThe Time Value of Money (TVM) principle states that money received in the present is of higher worth than money received in the future because money received now can be invested and used to generate cash flows to the enterprise in the future in the form of interest or from future investment appreciation and reinvestment.read more. Simply because you always have a positive risk free rate and you simply add it to the spot price to derive other prices. This scenario, when the future price is greater than the spot price, is known as ContangoContangoContango describes a situation in which the future price of a commodity or security (also known as the Futures Price) is higher than the current price (known as Spot Price).read more.

Backwardation, on the other hand, is the scenario when the future price is less than the spot price. Eventually, both the prices will converge on the expiry date. The former gives an optimistic picture of the security while the latter denotes that the security price is going south. Traders will look to short the security is such a scenario.

Spot Price and Arbitrage

The spot price for all accounting and calculation purposes is uniform across the world. However, there can be times when these prices differ. For example, let’s consider a scenario when the stock price of Google’s parent companyParent CompanyA holding company is a company that owns the majority voting shares of another company (subsidiary company). This company also generally controls the management of that company, as well as directs the subsidiary's directions and policies.read more – Alphabet, is different at NYSE and NASDAQ. Though unexpected, if such a scenario arises, traders will take full advantage of the same. They will remain long the stock where it is quoting low and short it on the exchange where it is priced higher.

As soon as more traders try doing that, the price at both the exchange will converge and will eventually match each other. This situation is called arbitrage, and such opportunities are pure gold for traders, which they would never want to miss. In fact, because of the trader on the lookout for arbitrage, such opportunities either do not exist or exist for a very short duration. Thus eventually making the financial marketsFinancial MarketsThe term "financial market" refers to the marketplace where activities such as the creation and trading of various financial assets such as bonds, stocks, commodities, currencies, and derivatives take place. It provides a platform for sellers and buyers to interact and trade at a price determined by market forces.read more much more efficient.

Conclusion

The spot price is the reflection of how things are perceived in the market for that particular security. This can be checked through the depth and gives an account of the number of buyers and sellers at a particular period of time.

For any commodity, security, or any other type of financial product, the spot price is of utmost importance and primary number. Any other price or any other calculation has to be done, keeping the current price as the reference. Be it the commodity cost of carrying or futures contract price three months down the line, it has to start from somewhere, and that starting point is called a spot price.

Further, it can be studied to identify the market trend, identify arbitrage opportunities, or any other derivative pricing. In fact, most often than not, traders across the planet study the bonds spot prices, not only the current ones but also for 3-4 years down the line to identify the trend and supposedly predict a recession.

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