By Lou Stanasolovich

Futures Contracts:

Futures contracts are standardized agreements that are traded on commodity exchanges that call for the future delivery of the commodity or financial instruments at a specified time and place. A futures trader that enters into a contract to take delivery of the underlying commodity is "long" the contract, or has "bought" the contract. A trader that is obligated to make delivery is "short" the contract or has "sold" the contract. Actual delivery on the contract rarely occurs. Futures traders usually offset (liquidate) their contract obligations by entering into equal but offsetting futures positions. For example, a trader who is long one September Treasury bond contract on the Chicago Board of Trade can offset the obligation by entering into a short position in a September Treasury bond contract on that exchange. Futures positions that have not yet been liquidated are known as "open" contracts or positions.

Futures contracts are traded on a wide variety of commodities, including agricultural products, metals, livestock products, government securities, currencies and stock market indices. Options on futures contracts are also traded on U.S. commodity exchanges.

Forward Contracts:

Currencies and other commodities may be purchased or sold for future delivery or cash settlement through banks or dealers pursuant to forward or swap contracts. Currencies also can be traded pursuant to futures contracts on organized futures exchanges. Dealers in foreign exchange contracts for currencies will act as "principals" in these transactions and will include their profit in the price quoted on the contracts. Unlike futures contracts, foreign exchange contracts are not standardized. In addition, the forward market is largely unregulated. Forward contracts are not "cleared" or guaranteed by a third party. Thus, managed futures funds are subject to the creditworthiness of the foreign exchange dealers with whom they maintain all assets and positions relating to a fundís forward contract investments. There also is no daily settlement of unrealized gains or losses on open foreign exchange contracts as there is with futures contracts on U.S. exchanges.

Swap Transactions:

Transactions in forward or other markets could be characterized as swap transactions. They may involve interest rates, currencies, securities interests, commodities and other items. A swap transaction is an individually negotiated, non-standardized agreement between two parties to exchange cash flows measured by different interest rates, exchange rates, or prices, with payments calculated by reference to the amount of the note. Transactions in these markets present risks similar to those in the futures, forward and options markets. These risks include:

  1. the swap markets are generally not regulated by any United States or foreign governmental authorities;
  2. there are generally no limitations on daily price moves in swap transactions;
  3. speculative position limits are not applicable to swap transactions, although the counterparties with which a fund may deal may limit the size or duration of positions available as a consequence of credit considerations;
  4. participants in the swap markets are not required to make continuous markets in swaps contracts; and
  5. the swap markets are "principal markets," in which performance with respect to a swap contract is the responsibility only of the counterparty with which the trader has entered into a contract (or its guarantor, if any), and not of any exchange or clearinghouse. As a result, a fund will be subject to the risk of the inability of or refusal to perform by its counterparty with which it trades.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has adopted Part 35 to its Rules which provides non-exclusive safe harbor treatment from regulations under the Commodity Exchange Act as amended for swap transactions which meet specified criteria, over which the CFTC will not exercise its jurisdiction and regulate as futures or commodity option transactions. In addition, on December 21, 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 amended the Commodity Exchange Act so that it does not apply to any agreement, contract, or transaction in a commodity, other than an agricultural commodity (including swap transactions), if the agreement, contract, or transaction is entered into only between eligible contract participants (which includes commodity pools meeting certain capitalization requirements), is subject to individual negotiation by the parties, and is not executed or traded on a trading facility. If a managed futures fund were restricted in its ability to trade in the swap markets, the activities of a fund, to the extent that it trades in such markets, might be materially affected.


The U.S. futures markets are regulated under the Commodity Exchange Act, which is administered by the CFTC, a federal agency created in 1974. The CFTC licenses and regulates commodity exchanges, commodity pool operators, commodity trading advisors and clearing firms which are referred to in the futures industry as "futures commission merchants." Futures professionals are also regulated by the National Futures Association (NFA), a self-regulatory organization for the futures industry that supervises the dealings between futures professionals and their customers. If its pertinent CFTC licenses or NFA memberships were to lapse, be suspended or be revoked, a managed futures fund manager would be unable to act as the commodity pool operator and commodity trading advisor.

The CFTC and the exchanges have pervasive powers over the futures markets, including the emergency power to suspend trading and order trading for liquidation of existing positions only. The exercise of such powers could adversely affect a fundís trading.

The CFTC does not regulate forward contracts. Federal and state banking authorities also do not regulate forward trading or forward dealers. Trading in foreign currency forward contracts may be less liquid and therefore a fundís trading results might be adversely affected.


The CFTC has adopted disclosure, reporting and recordkeeping requirements for commodity pool operators and disclosure and recordkeeping requirements for commodity trading advisors. The reporting rules require pool operators to furnish to the participants in their pools a monthly statement of account, showing the poolís income or loss and change in net asset value, and an annual financial report, audited by an independent certified public accountant.

Margin Discussion:

Many managed futures funds use margin in their trading. In order to establish and maintain a futures position, traders must make a type of good-faith deposit with its broker, known as "margin," of approximately 2%-10% of contract value. Minimum margins are established for each futures contract by the exchange on which the contract is traded. The exchanges alter their margin requirements from time to time, sometimes significantly. For their protection, futures brokers may require higher margins from their customers than the exchange minimums. Margin also is deposited in connection with forward contracts but is not required by any applicable regulation.

There are two types of margin. "Initial" margin is the amount a trader is required to deposit with its broker to open a futures position. The other type of margin is "maintenance" margin. When the contract value of a traderís futures position falls below a certain percentage, typically about 75%, of its value when the trader established the position, the trader is required to deposit additional margin in an amount equal to the loss in value.

Legend Financial Advisors, Inc.ģ
5700 Corporate Drive, Suite 350
Pittsburgh, PA 15237-5829
Phone: (412) 635-9210
Fax: (412) 635-9213
Toll Free: (888) 236-5960
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