Investing What Is a Spot Price? Spot Prices Explained By Robin Hartill Robin Hartill Robin Hartill is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who writes about money management, investing, and retirement planning. She has written and edited personal finance content since 2016. Robin currently leads The Penny Hoarder's personal finance advice column, "Dear Penny." Through this platform, Robin answers the questions of readers from across the United States. She decodes industry jargon, making complicated finance topics like paying taxes, managing a portfolio, and boosting a credit score easy to understand. learn about our editorial policies Updated on December 29, 2021 Reviewed by Robert C. Kelly Reviewed by Robert C. Kelly Robert Kelly is managing director of XTS Energy LLC, and has more than three decades of experience as a business executive. He is a professor of economics and has raised more than $4.5 billion in investment capital. learn about our financial review board Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article Definition and Examples of Spot Price How Do Spot Prices Work? What Spot Price Means for Investors Definition The spot price is the current price you’ll pay to acquire a stock, bond, commodity, or currency immediately. Photo: Kali9 / Getty Images Definition and Examples of Spot Price A spot price is the price you’ll pay to acquire any asset, including securities, commodities, and currencies, immediately. Alternate name: cash price You’ll likely hear about spot prices if you’re trading commodities, which are physical goods like gold and silver, oil, wheat, or lumber. Commodities trade on both the spot market, which is the market for immediate delivery, and the futures market, which is the market for future delivery. In commodity trading, the seller makes a legal commitment to deliver an agreed-upon quantity of the commodity on a certain date at a specified price. The spot price is (the immediate price), it is a key factor in determining how futures contracts are priced. For example, say a barrel of crude oil is trading at $68 one day. However, its futures contract with a settlement date of one year later was priced at $64 per barrel, indicating that the market expected oil prices to drop. The spot price of crude oil that day would be $68, and the contract price would be $64, which would be based in part on the spot price. In another example, consider that gold is trading for $1,780 per ounce, but its futures contract for one year later was $1,786. In this case, investors expect gold prices to rise. The spot price would be $1,780 and the futures contract price would be $1,786. Note Investors frequently use commodities as a hedge against inflation. When inflation is high, stocks, and bonds often lose value. However, commodities tend to be more volatile than other investments. You probably won’t hear the term “spot price” very often when you invest in stocks because stocks always trade at spot price. You buy a stock for the quoted price, and the transaction occurs immediately. So there is no need to make a distinction from another type of price. How Do Spot Prices Work? Commodity traders use futures contracts for two primary purposes: as a hedge against increases or decreases in the spot price, or to speculate that the spot price of a commodity will increase or decrease. A wheat farmer who’s worried that the spot price will be lower by the time she harvests her crop and brings it to market may sell a futures contract as a hedging strategy. A company that needs to secure the farmer’s wheat may buy the forward contract as a hedge in case the spot price of wheat increases. A third-party speculator aiming for profits could also buy or sell the forward contract based on whether they predict the spot price of wheat will rise or fall. What Spot Price Means for Investors If the spot price is lower than the futures price for a commodity—meaning the price of the commodity is expected to rise—the market is said to be in “contango.” When the spot price is higher than the futures price and the commodity’s price is expected to drop, the market is in “backwardation.” Spot prices and futures prices tend to converge as the contract gets closer to expiration. Predicting changes in spot prices can be tricky for investors. Unpredictable factors like weather, political instability, and labor strikes are among the many factors that can affect commodity prices. For individual investors who want to diversify with commodities, investing in an index fund that tracks a major commodity index may be a less risky option than investing directly. Note The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is responsible for regulating commodity futures. Anyone who trades futures with the public or provides advice about futures contracts must register with the National Futures Association (NFA). Key Takeaways Spot price is the price an investor pays to acquire an asset immediately.Spot price is typically referenced in commodities trading because commodities trade on both the spot market and the futures market. Futures prices are prices for delivery of an asset at a future specified date.When the spot price is lower than the futures price, the market is in contango. If the spot price is higher than the futures price, backwardation is occurring. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "The Futures Market as Forecasting Tool: An Imperfect Crystal Ball." Accessed Aug. 17, 2021.