What is Spot Price?
A spot price is the current market price of a commodity, financial product or a derivative product and an investor or trader can buy or sell the given asset or security for immediate delivery at this very price. Simply put, to own a 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. In fact, it is more of an economic concept rather than a mathematical part. At any point of time, forces of demand and supply play an important role in determining the market price. For accounting purposes, this will be fairly uniform worldwide. It is very different from futures or forwards contracts in that way because those are agreed upon price based on some contract.
- 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 had for financial products like futures – the spot price is added with the carry cost of that product based on the prevailing interest-free rate. Obviously, 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.
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 2 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 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 ones price refers to the futures price.
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, there is something called as time value of money. Simply because you have always 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 Contango.
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 company – Alphabet is different at NYSE and NASDAQ. Though unexpected, if such a scenario arises, traders will take full advantage of the same. They will 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 markets much more efficient.
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 commodity cost of carrying or futures contract price 3 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.
This has been a guide to what is Spot Price and its definition. Here we discuss the meaning of spot price along with example and explanations. You can learn more from the following finance articles –