What Is Spread Trading: A Briefing

What Is Spread Trading: A Briefing

In order to profit from market imbalances, spread traders purchase one security and simultaneously sell another that is identical to or related to it. While spread trades are complicated and unfamiliar to the typical retail investor, they can be profitable and decrease investment risk. How do you determine whether spread trading is right for you when there are so many different trading tactics available? Let’s dissect it to find out. 

Defining Spread Trading

Within the finance industry, there are multiple interpretations of what a spread is. The fact that a spread entails a change in rates, yields, or asset prices, however, unites all of the definitions. A sell-and-buy transaction of a single security, conducted as a single deal, is referred to as spread trading or relative value trading, i.e., a security is being bought and sold simultaneously.

Spread trading is typically found with options trading and futures contracts. The trade’s legs, or the transactions the investor buys and sells, are frequently referred to as the offsetting transactions of the two agreements.  

A spread trade aims to produce a positive value. To get the maximum positive value out of a spread trade, investors need to decide if a broader or narrower spread will benefit them more.

The fact that spread transactions typically have lower margin requirements than direct futures trading is one of the factors that makes them occasionally more alluring.

How Spread Trading Works

Spread trading involves anticipating a result and incurring risks based on that estimate in order to leverage short and long bets against an index. Spread trading has the potential to be both profitable and hazardous because trades are made on the investor’s assumption. An investment will be more profitable if their assumption is accurate. On the other hand, investors stand to lose more the more it is wrong.

An investor can open a position for as long as they need to complete the trade, whether that be weeks or minutes. The various variables they must keep an eye on as well as their degree of confidence determine how long they wait. Whether the security’s price is higher or lower than when they initiated the position, is the primary aspect that dictates their trading time.

Additionally, there are multiple trading actions. For instance, when an investor takes a short position in a security, you have bull and bear calls. As an alternative, investors might take a long position in bull and bear puts, which have similar names. Different traders take different ways to reduce risk; some limit possible profits and losses by setting strike prices on their options. However, this is typically found in more sophisticated options trading techniques.

Types of Spread Trading Techniques

Spread trading comes in a variety of forms, such as these:

Inter-Commodity Spread Trading
Commodities with an economic relationship are traded by investors who participate in inter-commodity spread trading. Examples of relationships include:

  • Spark Spread: This has to do with how natural gas and electricity are related. Because some power plants require natural gas to operate, there is an inherent relationship.
  • Crush Spread: The link between soybeans and their derivatives is related to this spread. There is an innate link since soybeans are used to make oil and meals.
  • Crush Spread: This has to do with the connection between oil and the several petroleum derivatives that it contains. For instance, there is an inherent link between crude oil and gasoline since the two can be combined to form gasoline. 

Futures Spread Trading
Trading futures spreads involves using different contracts with the same security or community as the legs of a trade. Futures spread trading comes in many forms, most of which call for intricate investment plans and risk management protocols.


Taking a long position in one security and a short one in another, either identical or comparable, is known as a spread trade. Usually, currency pairs and futures or options contracts are used for this. When investing in futures, spread trades are a conservative hedging method used by traders and investors. Remember that every investment plan involves both risks and rewards, regardless of whether spread trading sounds like your cup of tea. Therefore, ensure that the investment choice you select supports your financial goals before you engage in spread trading.