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Difference between the Cash Market and the Future Market

Cash Market, Future Market, Futures, Stock Trading, Stock Market, Share Market Trading,

The Indian stock market offers a vibrant landscape for investors. However navigating the different trading options can be confusing, especially for beginners. Two prominent options are the cash market and the futures market. This comprehensive guide explores the key differences between these markets, empowering you to make informed decisions in your investment journey. 

The Cash Market

Imagine buying a share of a company like Infosys and holding onto it for the long term. That's the essence of the Cash Market. It's a traditional market where investors directly buy and sell shares of companies at the prevailing market price.

Key Characteristics of the Cash Market





When you buy shares in the cash market, you become a partial owner of the company.

By purchasing Infosys shares in the cash market, you hold a stake in the company's performance.


Transactions are settled on a T+2 basis, meaning the delivery of shares and payment occur two business days after the trade.

If you buy Reliance Industries shares today, you'll receive the shares and make the payment in two trading days.

Investment Horizon

The cash market is suitable for both short-term and long-term investments.

You can hold Infosys shares for a few weeks or even years, depending on your investment strategy.


As a shareholder in the cash market, you're entitled to receive dividends declared by the company.

If Infosys declares a dividend, you'll receive a portion of the company's profits based on the number of shares you hold.


The Futures Market

The Futures Market is a different beast altogether. Here, investors enter into contracts to buy or sell a specific asset (like a stock) at a predetermined price on a future date. It's essentially an agreement to exchange the asset at a specific price on a specific day, regardless of the market price at that time.

Key Characteristics of the Futures Market




Contractual Obligation

You enter into a contract to buy or sell a specific number of shares at a specific price on a specific expiry date.

You might sign a contract to buy 100 shares of HDFC Bank at ₹4,000 per share three months from now.

Margin Requirement

You only need to pay a margin (a percentage of the contract value) upfront, not the entire amount.

For your HDFC Bank futures contract, you might only need to pay a 10% margin, which is ₹40,000 upfront instead of the entire ₹4,00,000.


Futures contracts are generally settled in cash before the expiry date. The difference between the contract price and the market price is settled in cash.

If the market price of HDFC Bank is ₹4,500 on the expiry date, you'll receive a cash settlement of ₹500 per share (₹4,500 - ₹4,000).

No Ownership

Unlike the cash market, you don't actually own the underlying asset (stock) in a futures contract.

You don't become a shareholder of HDFC Bank through the futures contract.


Cash Market vs. Futures Market: A Quick Comparison Table

Here's a table summarising the key differences between Cash and Futures Markets:


Cash Market

Futures Market

Transaction Type

Buying/Selling of Shares

Contract to Buy/Sell Shares


Yes, you become a shareholder.

No, you don't own the underlying asset.


T+2 Delivery

Everyday Cash Settlement Before Expiry

Investment Horizon

Short-term or Long-term

Primarily Short-term (based on contract expiry)


Entitled to dividends

Not entitled to dividends

Margin Requirement

Full purchase price required

Only margin needed upfront


You believe Reliance Industries has long-term growth potential. You buy 100 shares in the cash market for ₹2500 per share, investing ₹2,50,000 (100 * ₹2500). You now own these shares and aim to hold them for potential capital appreciation and dividend income.


You believe the price of Infosys will rise in the next few months. You enter a futures contract to buy 100 shares of Infosys at a strike price of ₹1500 per share, expiring in 3 months. The margin requirement might be 20%, so you pay ₹30,000 (20% of ₹1500 * 100 shares). If the price of Infosys increases before expiry, you can potentially profit by squaring off your position or taking delivery of the shares at the agreed-upon price.



Futures Market: Margin and Additional Considerations


In futures contracts, you typically need to pay a margin, which is a percentage of the total contract value. This acts as a deposit to guarantee your performance in the contract.


Futures contracts can be settled in two ways: physical delivery (taking ownership of the underlying asset) or cash settlement (receiving or paying the difference between the contract price and the market price at expiry). In India, cash settlement is more common for stock futures.


Futures contracts offer leverage, meaning you can control a larger contract value with a smaller initial investment (margin). However, leverage can magnify both profits and losses.

Choosing Between Cash and Futures Markets

The choice between cash and futures markets depends on your investment goals and risk tolerance:

Cash Market

Ideal for investors seeking to own shares for long-term capital appreciation or regular dividend income. It involves lower risk but also potentially lower returns compared to futures.

Futures Market 

It is more suited for experienced investors comfortable with short-term trading strategies, leveraging their positions, and managing margin requirements. It offers the potential for higher returns but also carries higher risks.


Understanding the Cash Market and Futures Market empowers you to make informed decisions about your investment strategy in the Indian stock market. The Cash Market is ideal for long-term investments seeking ownership and potentially steady dividends.  The Futures Market offers opportunities for short-term gains or hedging strategies but requires a higher level of risk tolerance and market knowledge.  Ultimately, your investment goals and risk appetite will determine which market best suits your needs.


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