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Spot Rate

Understanding a Spot Trade

Foreign exchange spot contracts are the most common type and are usually specified for delivery in two business days, while most other financial instruments settle the next business day. The spot foreign exchange (forex) market trades electronically around the world. It is the world’s largest market, with over $5 trillion traded daily; its size dwarfs both the interest rate and commodity markets.

The current price of a financial instrument is called the spot price. It is the price at which an instrument can be sold or bought immediately. Buyers and sellers create the spot price by posting their buy and sell orders. In liquid markets, the spot price may change by the second, as outstanding orders get filled and new ones enter the marketplace.

Foreign exchange spot contracts are the most popular and the spot foreign exchange market, traded electronically, is the largest in the world.

Special Considerations

Forward Pricing

The price for any instrument that settles later than the spot is a combination of the spot price and the interest cost until the settlement date. In the case of forex, the interest rate differential between the two currencies is used for this calculation.

Other Spot Markets

Most interest rate products, such as bonds and options, trade for spot settlement on the next business day. Contracts are most commonly between two financial institutions, but they can also be between a company and a financial institution. An interest rate swap in which the near leg is for the spot date usually settles in two business days.

Commodities are usually traded on an exchange. The most popular is the CME Group (previously known as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) and the Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).12 Most commodity trading is for future settlement and is not delivered; the contract is sold back to the exchange prior to maturity, and the gain or loss is settled in cash.

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Spot Rate

What Is a Spot Trade?

A spot trade, also known as a spot transaction, refers to the purchase or sale of a foreign currency, financial instrument, or commodity for instant delivery on a specified spot date. Most spot contracts include the physical delivery of the currency, commodity, or instrument; the difference in the price of a future or forward contract versus a spot contract takes into account the time value of the payment, based on interest rates and the time to maturity. In a foreign exchange spot trade, the exchange rate on which the transaction is based is referred to as the spot exchange rate.

A spot trade can be contrasted with a forward or futures trade.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Spot trades involve securities traded for immediate delivery in the market on a specified date.
  • Spot trades include the buying or selling of foreign currency, a financial instrument, or commodity 
  • Many assets quote a “spot price” and a “futures or forward price.”
  • Most spot market transactions have a T+2 settlement date.
  • Spot market transactions can take place on an exchange or over-the-counter.
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Spot Rate

Forward Rates

Unlike a spot contract, a forward contract, or futures contract, involves an agreement of contract terms on the current date with the delivery and payment at a specified future date. Contrary to a spot rate, a forward rate is used to quote a financial transaction that takes place on a future date and is the settlement price of a forward contract. However, depending on the security being traded, the forward rate can be calculated using the spot rate. Once calculated, it is adjusted for the cost of carry to determine the future interest rate that equates the total return of a longer-term investment with a strategy of rolling over a shorter-term investment.

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Spot Rate

Delivery of Forex Contracts

The standard delivery time for a forex spot rate is T+2 days. Should a counterparty wish to delay delivery, they will have to take out a forward contract. Most of the time it is the forex dealers that have to manage this. For example, if a EUR/USD trade is executed at 1.1550, this will be the rate at which the currencies are exchanged on the spot date. However, if European interest rates are lower than they are in the U.S., this rate will be adjusted higher to account for this difference. So if either a dealer or their counterparty wishes to own EUR and short USD for a period of time it will cost them more than the spot rate. It should be noted that spot rate delivery times are not standard and may vary for some pairs.

Although the forex spot rate calls for delivery within two days, this rarely occurs in the trading community. Retail traders that hold a position for longer than two days will have their trades “reset” by the broker, i.e., closed and reopened at the same price, just prior to the two-day deadline. However, when these currencies are rolled there will be a premium or discount attached in the form of an increased rollover fee. The size of this fee depends on the difference in interest rates, via the short-term FX swap.

Because the spot rate is the rate of delivery with no adjustment for interest rate differential, it is the rate quoted in the retail market.

The retail forex market is dominated by travelers who wish to buy and sell foreign currency, whether it be through their bank or a currency exchange.

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Spot Rate

Understanding the Forex Spot Rate

The forex spot rate is the most commonly quoted price for currency pairs. It is the basis of the most frequent transaction in the forex market, an individual forex trade. This rate is much more widely published than rates for forward exchange contracts (FECs) or forex swaps. The spot forex rate differs from the forward rate in that it prices the value of currencies compared to foreign currencies today, rather than at some time in the future.

In 2019, the global forex spot market had a daily turnover of more than $6.6 trillion, which makes it bigger in nominal terms than both the equity and bond market.1 Rates are established in continuous, real-time published quotes by the small group of large banks that trade the interbank rate. From there, rates are published by forex brokers around the world.

Spot rates do not take into account forex contract delivery. Forex contract delivery is oblique to most retail forex traders, but brokers manage the use of currency futures contracts, which underpin their trading operations. The brokers have to roll those contracts each month or week, and they pass the costs on to their customers.

In this way, forex dealers incur costs managing their risk while providing liquidity to their customers. Most often they use the bid-ask dealing spread and a lower rollover credit (or higher rollover debit, depending on the currency pair you hold and whether you are long or short) to offset those costs.

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Spot Rate

What Is the Forex Spot Rate?

The forex spot rate is the current exchange rate at which a currency pair can be bought or sold. It is the prevailing quote for any given currency pair from a forex broker. In forex currency trading it is the rate that most traders use when trading with an online retail forex broker.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The forex spot rate is the regularly published continuous quote of exchange rates for all currency pairs.
  • The spot rate differs from the forward or swap rate.
  • The spot rate is not discounted for the delay in delivery, which gets added to the overnight rollover credit.