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Commodity Arbitrage Strategies, Examples, and Opportunities in 2019

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What is Arbitrage- Definition- In business and trading, one cannot throw free shots around and has to hit the bull’s eye at once, unless they want a chunk of losses their way. During World War II,the liberation of Normandy,  made end of the bloodshed explicit. Similarly, trading is about investing in places where one is utterly sure about the returns. However, trading without any risks in not always available but some forms of arbitrage can allow one to make profits with very limited risks. Such is Commodity Arbitrage, which is a purchase of securities or commodities from one market with the purpose of immediate resale on another market in order to profit from a price discrepancy and difference. To sum it up, it is a process consisting of simultaneous buying and selling of an asset from different platforms to different arenas, exchanges or locations to cash in on the price difference. While investing into this kind of a trade or getting into the same, one has to make sure that the underlying asset that is bought and sold is the same and only the final difference is captured as the net pay-off from arbitrage. Also, the difference should not include costs of execution because if not, then initiating the trade would not make much sense after all.

Commodity Arbitrage Strategies

It is absolutely necessary for an individual performing such trades to employ well planned strategies that would enable profits to be made, that would be in line with his risk profile. One of the best ways is to technical analysis, which is a discipline that interprets the movements of the market in order to profit from trading assets. Prices are systematically observed to comprehend the market, and increases and decreases in prices are not analysed on the basis of the cause and effect relation, as is done in fundamental analysis, but only for effect. Technical analysts seek to observe some typical situations and financial manner on the market that affect asset quotations and that systematically repeat themselves over time, which means analysts presume the existence of trends that are a lagged response of the market prices to the underlying factors governing those prices. In such a way, analysts exploit their expectation on prices to buy or sell assets and make profits. One of the best strategies is to rely on such presumptions, though not always on point, but pretty reliable.

Commodity Arbitrage Example

There is a really low, almost no risk arbitrage in MCX Silver throughout the year. MCX listed Silver – 30 Kilos contract size is a necessary delivery contract and the expiry time difference lies between any two derivative contracts of two months.  As per the presumptions by the market, contracts or expands, the spread or difference between two contracts. In the given example, the prices are expected to drastically fall in the near future, and the spread increases and decreases, if the market is optimistically hinting that the traders are willing to pay future premiums immediately as there may be supply shortages.The same leads to an arbitrage opportunity when the spread widens by a good margin, so that it becomes viable to purchase silver that would result in delivery of near month expiry contract and sell the next month contract which will expire in the next two months.  

Commodity Arbitrage in India

There are plenty of opportunities of commodity arbitrage in India. There is opportunity of arbitrage on the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) and the Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX). On January 24, gold contracts maturing for delivery in April, ruled at ₹28,815 for 10 gm on NCDEX. On MCX, they were quoted at ₹28,623. In both these transactions, the metal is traded at a unit of 1 kg with prices being quoted at ₹/10 gm. The arbitrage opportunity here is that a trader can buy one unit on MCX and sell one unit on NCDEX. But it is not as simple as it seem, because interchanging commodities from MCX to NCDEX or vice versa cannot be done. Thus, a situation where positions are squared off on both the exchanges, and the same has to be in accordance with how prices react simultaneously. Similarly, there are other less systematic options, like that of wholesale retailers, where people purchase commodities in huge stocks, be it, fabrics, clothes, food, or so.  

Challenges in Commodity Arbitrage

The concept of commodity futures was near dead for about four decades and has come alive since the past years, when the benefit of the same was observed and that is now replaced with policy, institutional and market activism. The same has also led to private participation based on market forces because of the liberalisation of market and globalisation. This has resulted in increasing exposure of agricultural produce to lowering prices and other market risks which consequently emphasize the importance of futures markets for price discovery and price risk management. Gaining profits from commodity trading often requires a combination of market knowledge, luck, and most importantly, strong risk management. There are major differences between well established markets, and the one’s struggling to develop, which puts the latter to a disadvantage.  

List of References

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