Encyclopedia of Investment Terminology

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Commodities and Futures

A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity or financial instrument at a specified price on a particular date in the future. Commodities include bulk goods, such as grains, metals, and foods, and financial instruments include U.S. and foreign currencies. The SEC administers and enforces the federal laws that govern the sale and trading of securities, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, but we do not regulate futures trading. We refer questions and complaints about futures to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)—the federal agency that does regulate futures trading.

With limited exceptions, the trading of futures must be executed on the floor of a commodity exchange. Similar to broker-dealers that are members of the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. or some other self-regulatory organization, all firms and individuals who trade futures with the public or give advice about futures trading must be registered with the National Futures Association (NFA).

For more information about the CFTC, you can view its website at www.cftc.gov. If you have a question or complaint about futures trading, you can use the CFTC’s online questionnaire form. You also can find information on the NFA website about filing a complaint with the NFA and how to resolve a dispute.

The CFTC cautions investors to be wary of websites that purport to offer high yield investment opportunities in futures and options, forex, hedge fund, or precious metals, common areas of internet fraud. The CFTC has posted several fictitious websites that are representative of typical websites that have been the subject of CFTC enforcement actions.

Much of the above information is courtesy of the SEC.

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