There is no transaction per se, and no change of ownership of any tangible asset — simply an agreement between trader and broker to enter into a wager on set terms, based on the outcome of some underlying market. As such, spread betting can be equally deployed as a mechanism for speculating on sports, political outcomes, TV or just about anything that can be measured — for the operation of the model, there is no need for anything financial or economic, nor even for anything predictable or controllable.
This taps in to an important, often fatal element of human psychology — the temptation to weather rough times in the hope of a future improvement. With spread betting, both profits and losses are uncapped, meaning traders will have to decide when best to accept either a profit or a loss. Bets are offered on a variety of markets and indices, which are used merely as a raw numerical basis for the wager. It is this simplicity in part which makes spread betting such an attractive trading opportunity.
Markets are quoted by the broker on the basis of spreads, which indicate the range through which the underlying market or index might be expected to move over the course of the day. However, with dynamic quoting which changes spreads as markets unfold and built in weighting to reflect the probability of outcomes, it can often be quite difficult for traders to call the market correctly, and to squeeze a sufficient profit from their trading. Financial spread betting might seem easy in concept, it is a notoriously difficult art to master, and one which requires both an intimate understanding of how transactions work, the function of markets and the tools in the arsenal to help traders respond to different situations.
While there is no substitute for raw experience, having the knowledge and understanding of your instrument of choice is the first positive step towards becoming a profitable trader with long term prospects. As distinct from regular share trading, spread betting has a number of key benefits, and offers consistent advantages over share dealing in terms of the sheer flexibility and the swift, sharp nature of returns that can be delivered.
Leverage plays a key role, making transactions both significantly more profitable and significantly more risky, and the burden of leverage is not one to be accepted lightly. In spread betting, unlike other forms of trading, leverage is inevitable and unavoidable. However, by taking care to ensure you understand the full implications of each transaction, and by identifying and managing the risks of each trade, it is possible to overcome the hurdles of leverage, and to apply it to your advantage.
Markets are the engine of spread bets and all financial trading, and provide the basis for placing trades. The manner in which they behave and respond to certain changes provides the volatility necessary for financial spread trading to succeed, and by understanding their inner workings, traders can come a couple of steps closer to realising their potential. Similarly, orders remain the core tools of spread bettors, implementing their instructions and delivering the flexibility necessary to guard against unwarranted risks and execute automatic trading decisions conditional on market behaviours.
By understanding the way in which markets and orders interact, and the specifics of each order type, we can start to build up a picture of how the tools of the trade can be used to protect capital, maximise profits and lower the risk profile on this otherwise highly risky trading style. Financial spread betting can be an exciting, fast-moving form of trading, and allows ordinary people from all walks of life to access the markets with very low barriers to entry.
That said, the markets take no prisoners, and only by being proactive in your research, planning and strategy efforts can you give yourself the best shot at generating a consistent, aggregate profit from your trading activity. When making a financial spread bet, a trader will decide on a certain amount of money to risk. With any type of financial trade, you have to pay in order to play. Because the cost of the spread is factored into any trade, the broker is always at an advantage.
Because the ask price is always above the current market price and the bid price is always below, traders have to pay the difference before they even enter the market. The current spread is based on a number of factors, including the current spot or futures rate, current market liquidity, the bet size, and spreads quoted by competing brokers. At the end of the day, the size of the spread is set by the company you choose to trade with.
While the house always makes money, it makes sense to research first in order to find a competitive broker with low spreads. To offer a more detailed example, if the FTSE stands at , the provider may offer you a bid price of and an offer price of However, you pay the spread whether you win or lose, an important point that all traders should never forget.
Typically around a few percent of the value of the underlying asset margin can be much lower on popular markets , the margin is used by brokers as a way to ensure there is no risk of real loss. However, waiting for a margin call is a very bad way to trade, with most people setting up stop loss orders to close out trades at specific levels. Normal orders are not percent safe, however, especially when the market is moving so fast that lots of orders are triggered at the same time.
If spread betting sounds like something you might do in a sports bar, you're not far off. Charles K. McNeil, a mathematics teacher who became a securities analyst—and later a bookmaker—in Chicago during the s has been widely credited with inventing the spread-betting concept. But its origins as an activity for professional financial-industry traders happened roughly 30 years later, on the other side of the Atlantic.
At the time, the gold market was prohibitively difficult to participate in for many, and spread betting provided an easier way to speculate on it. Let's use a practical example to illustrate the pros and cons of this derivative market and the mechanics of placing a bet. First, we'll take an example in the stock market, and then we'll look at an equivalent spread bet. Note here several important points.
Also, normally commissions would be charged to enter and exit the stock market trade. Finally, the profit may be subject to capital gains tax and stamp duty. Now, let's look at a comparable spread bet. The value of a point can vary. In this case, we will assume that one point equals a one pence change, up or down, in the Vodaphone share price. In the U. However, while spread bettors do not pay commissions, they may suffer from the bid-offer spread, which may be substantially wider than the spread in other markets.
Keep in mind also that the bettor has to overcome the spread just to break even on a trade. Generally, the more popular the security traded, the tighter the spread, lowering the entry cost. In addition to the absence of commissions and taxes, the other major benefit of spread betting is that the required capital outlay is dramatically lower.
The use of leverage works both ways, of course, and herein lies the danger of spread betting. While you can quickly make a large amount of money on a relatively small deposit, you can lose it just as fast. If the price of Vodaphone fell in the above example, the bettor may eventually have been asked to increase the deposit or even have had the position closed out automatically.
In such a situation, stock market traders have the advantage of being able to wait out a down move in the market, if they still believe the price is eventually heading higher. Despite the risk that comes with the use of high leverage, spread betting offers effective tools to limit losses.
Risk can also be mitigated by the use of arbitrage, betting two ways simultaneously. Arbitrage opportunities arise when the prices of identical financial instruments vary in different markets or among different companies. As a result, the financial instrument can be bought low and sold high simultaneously. An arbitrage transaction takes advantage of these market inefficiencies to gain risk-free returns.
Due to widespread access to information and increased communication, opportunities for arbitrage in spread betting and other financial instruments have been limited. However, spread betting arbitrage can still occur when two companies take separate stances on the market while setting their own spreads.
At the expense of the market maker, an arbitrageur bets on spreads from two different companies. Simply put, the trader buys low from one company and sells high in another. Whether the market increases or decreases does not dictate the amount of return. Failure to complete transactions smoothly can lead to significant losses for the arbitrageur.
Continually developing in sophistication with the advent of electronic markets, spread betting has successfully lowered the barriers to entry and created a vast and varied alternative marketplace. Arbitrage, in particular, lets investors exploit the difference in prices between two markets, specifically when two companies offer different spreads on identical assets.
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See our full IG review. See our full Markets. City Index is a familiar UK brand having been established in and will appeal to novice through to experienced traders. See our full City Index review Apply. See our full SpreadEx review. Clients can spread bet from as little as 10p per point making it a good option for beginners. See our full ETX Capital review. See our full Accendo Markets review. As a smaller broker, personal service is high on their priority list. See our full Hantec Markets review.
This range will easily cater for the needs of the majority of traders. See our full FxPro review. See our full Spread Co review. The Armchair Trader is paid for by our partners through clicks, views and advertorials. So if you open an account through a link on the site, we may receive a fee for providing the introduction. This fee will in no way be passed on to you from our partners. If you are new to financial spread betting , we offer a variety of free resources that you can use to help you select the broker that best meets your trading needs.
We suggest that you start with the basics — decide what tools and features you need to identify, execute and control your trades. Our guide to choosing the right spread betting company can be found here. Download it for free and use it to ensure you are asking yourself the right questions.
Remember, spread betting is a leveraged product which means your winning trades and your losing trades are magnified. You should understand leverage before you begin to trade with real money. Some, but not all, spread betting companies offer a demo account. This is an account using a limited number of markets with live prices that you can use to practice on. They have the advantage of letting you trade live, up-to-date market prices rather than delayed ones.
Find out how you can make best use of a spread betting demo account , avoiding the pitfalls along the way. Some spread betting companies are geared towards offering accounts that have the beginner in mind. These accounts generally provide limited risk features that are designed to ensure that novice traders do not make costly mistakes as they learn about the unpredictable nature of the financial markets. FxPro Edge users are provided with a professional trading environment with commission-free spread betting available on forex, share, index, energy and metal products.
As with all spread betting in the United Kingdom, profits are tax-free and exempt from stamp duty and capital gains tax. As spread betting involves complex instruments and comes with a high risk of losing money, choosing a broker with strong risk management tools can be useful. FxPro Edge users can place market orders as well as pending orders such as limit, stop-loss and take profit orders. Although trading tools such as Expert Advisors and customer indicators are not supported by FxPro Edge, the broker is looking to incorporate such features into the trading platform in the near future.
Additionally, segregated client funds ensure trading account balances are protected in the case of a broker being insolvent. Spread betting is a tax-free type of derivatives trading where retail investors speculate on whether market prices will rise or fall, without buying or selling the underlying asset. Traders select an amount to bet per point of price movement known as the stake, i. If you are looking to trade CFDs instead, you can find more info here. Brokers quote a buy and sell price, with the spread being the difference between the two prices.
When spread betting, if a trader thinks the market price will increase, they buy long , and if the market price is thought to decrease, a trader will place a sell trade short. You can view the list of UK MetaTrader 4 broker to find the best spread betting broker offering this software. Spread betting is tax-free and seen as more tax-efficient than share or CFD trading. When comparing February spreads, commissions, trading platform and customer service it was clear that Pepperstone is the best broker.
You should also select the Razor account which has the lowest trading fees and was compared to the other UK financial spread betting brokers above. Once the account is opened you may be contacted by Pepperstone to provide assistance with trading or you can contact them at to experience their award-winning customer service based in London.
Unlike sports spread betting, financial spread betting involves leverage allowing UK traders to trade on market volatility. Below are the main elements to understand if your considering this trading type. Spread betting allows traders in Ireland or the United Kindom to bet on forex, ETFs, shares or commodities without owning the underlying asset.
When traders make a financial spread bet they are speculating if the asset will rise or fall through a spread betting broker. The main difference between trading CFDs and spread betting related to tax. The other main difference is that only CFDs use standardised contracts. Only a small number of brokers offers spread betting and must be FCA regulated. Not all traders such as those from the United States can trade with the brokers above with the list designed solely for UK and Ireland residents only.
This includes limiting leverage on all retail investor accounts depending on the underlying instrument traded. For trading currency, the maximum leverage is while for equities its In the FCA banned trading cryptocurrencies due to the volatility of Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrency types. Spread betting on MT4 is primarily designed for currency trading while indices, ETFs and commodities can also be traded.
As the most popular software platform, most brokers that allow UK traders to make a spread bet also offer MetaTrader 4. Advantages of using MT4 to make a spread bet included the customised indicators and ability to use scalping automated trading through Expert advisors EAs. These EAs can be created from scratched or purchased through marketplaces to algorithmically make spread bet trades.
There are two types of spread betting fees. The first is the spread. The second fee is the commission which is based on trading volume. Justin Grossbard has been investing for the past 20 years and writing for the past He co-founded Compare Forex Brokers in after working with the foreign exchange trading industry for several years. He and his wife Paula live in Melbourne, Australia with his son and Siberian cat. In his spare time, he watches Australian Rules Football and invests on global markets.
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