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Steel Futures - Glossary of Terms
abandon: To allow an option to expire without exercising it.
actuals: Trades that result in the delivery of the commodity i.e. not hedging, speculation or arbitrage. This term is used more in the US. On the LME the term ‘physical’ trade is more commonly used.
american style option: An option which may be declared on any day prior to expiration, with the underlying being transferred as a spot transaction for cash.
approved warehouse: Any warehouse approved by the LME, for the delivery, storage and collection of LME branded metals traded on the Exchange.
arbitrage: The purchase/sale of a contract on a market and the simultaneous taking of an equal and opposite position, usually on another market, to profit from discrepancies in the price and/or currencies involved.
asian style option: An option exercised at the average underlying price over the period of its life (official LME average price option contracts are called TAPOs).
assay: An independent qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the chemical elements contained in metals. LME contract specifications define the required purity and minimum assay that registered brands must meet.
ask: The quoted market selling price. See also “‘offer’”, with which this term is interchangeable.
assignment: Notification from The London Clearing House (LCH) to the options writer that his position has been exercised.
at-the-money: The state of an option where the strike price is the same as or nearest to that of the current market price of the underlying metal.
audit trail: The record of trading information identifying the brokers participating, the firms clearing, the terms and time of the trade and when applicable the customers involved.
backwardation: Market situation when a nearby price is higher than a further forward price.
base metal: Non-ferrous metal, excluding precious metals.
basis price: The reference price used for establishing a physical contract. In option trading it is the price agreed for the underlying should an option be declared, more commonly referred to as the strike price or exercise price.
bear: One who anticipates a decline in prices.
bear market: A market in which prices are declining.
bear spread: The simultaneous purchase and sale of two contracts of the same metal with the intention of profiting from a decline in prices whilst also limiting a potential loss. E.g. selling a nearby delivery and buying a deferred delivery.
bid: The quoted market buying price.
Black-Scholes model: An option pricing model, named after its two US designers. Most LME traders use a version of this, adapted for LME contracts.
borrowing: One form of carry. In this case the simultaneous buying of metal for a near dated prompt and the selling of that metal for a later dated prompt. In effect the party is borrowing the metal for the period.
broker: In the context of the LME, a person or company that buys from or sells to customers. On the LME brokers act as principals to the contracts with customers carrying imbalances of trades in a house book, which they may offset with other brokers.
bull: One who anticipates a rise in prices.
bull market: A market in which prices are rising.
business Day: Any day except Saturday, Sunday or any public or bank holiday in England or a day during which trade on the Exchange has been suspended by or under the authority of any enactment or a day which the directors declare not to be a business day.
C & F: Cost and freight, whereby the quoted price for physical material includes all costs incurred in shipping the metal to the customer’s location but not including insurance.
CIF: Cost, insurance and freight, whereby the quoted price for physical material includes all costs incurred in shipping the metal to the customer’s location including insurance.
call option: A contract that gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy metal futures at a set price (the strike price) on a given date.
carry: The simultaneous purchase and sale of the same tonnage of the same metal for delivery on different dates. See “‘borrowing’” and “‘lending”’.
cash price: The current price in the market for cash/spot contracts. LME cash contracts are for delivery two days forward from the trading day.
cash today: An LME trade that is carried out after the normal period for a ‘cash’ trade (i.e. for delivery two business days later) A cash today trade between brokers can only be done prior to the commencement of the official rings at 12.30 and is for delivery on the next business day. Customers’ cash today trades must be completed by 12.20 on the trading day before the delivery day. Also referred to as ‘”tom next”’.
cathode: The negative pole in electrolysis. Cathodes deliverable on the LME are flat rectangular shapes that have been refined by electrolysis.
ceiling: A recognised high point in market prices. This may be a point the market does not expect the price to exceed, the highest price achieved before the market declines or a level set by a customer as a maximum price to be paid.
clearing: The process of registering and guaranteeing the financial settlement of futures and options transactions and the settling of differences between clearing members.
clearing house: An independent body appointed by an exchange to carry out the clearing processes between members. In the case of the LME this is the London Clearing House Limited (LCH).
client contract: A contract between a broker member and its customer.
close (out): To undertake an opposite position, i.e. if the initial transaction was a purchase, the closing out activity is to sell the same tonnage for the same prompt date.
closing prices: The prices determined for margining purposes as at the close of business on each business day by the quotations committee.
combination: A mixture of contracts used to produce a hedging strategy, it may include both futures and options.
commission: Fee charged by a broker for executing an order.
commission house: A term (mostly used in the United States) for brokerage firms that gain the majority of their revenue from fees charged for trading activities.
consumer’s hedge: The purchase of futures or options on futures or both as protection against a rise in raw material prices.
contango: Market situation when a nearby price is lower than a further forward price.
contract specification: The detailed requirements as per the LME rules and regulations necessary for metal to be approved for delivery against LME contracts.
corner: When one operator owns or controls an excessive amount of stocks enabling them to control the supply of material and in consequence to control the price.
cross trade: In LME terms, a trade between a broker and its customer, which is not revealed to the rest of the market but for registration purposes it is entered in the matching process by the clearing member as a buy and sell contract to and from itself.
custom smelter: A smelter that processes concentrates for customers rather than a feed from its own mining operation. For this service treatment charges or tolling charges are received.
daily price limit: The maximum price, increase/decrease, permitted from the previous day's settlement price. There are no such limits on the LME.
declaration date: The last date on which the holder of an option may advise the grantor of his intention to exercise the option.
deliverable grade: Grades of metal, which have been officially approved by the LME as deliverable in settlement of a LME contract.
delivery point: An approved location at which metal maybe stored in order to fulfil a LME contract.
delta: The rate of change to the premium of an option as the underlying price changes.
derivative: The collective term for a future or call or a put option the price of which is derived form the value of the underlying metal.
difference account: A customer statement showing matching purchases and sales adjusted by commission and exchange fees and showing the ultimate amount due to or from the broker.
EFP: Exchange for physicals. The exchange between two customers of both physical and futures positions (also known as “'against actuals”').
efficient market: A market in which information is immediately available to all users.
european style: An option that can only be exercised on its expiry date.
exchange contract: A contract made between two clearing members, which has been matched and registered with the clearing house.
exchange rate: The price of one currency in relation to another.
exercise: The process by which an option holder initiates the right to buy or sell the relevant futures contract.
exercise price (strike): The value of the underlying futures contract determined at the time of purchasing an option. Hence the price achieved if the option is exercised.
expiry date: The date after which an option can no longer be exercised.
exotic options: A variety of options with non-standard pay-out structures usually traded over-the-counter (OTC) and designed specifically for a user.
FAS / FOQ: Free along side/Free on quay, whereby the quoted price for physical material includes all costs incurred in getting the metal to the point of loading onto the means of transport.
FOB / FOT: Free on board/Free on truck, whereby the quoted price for physical material includes all costs incurred in getting the metal to and loaded onto the means of transport.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority.
fabricator: A company that processes refined (cathodes, ingots, billet etc) or semi-fabricated (extrusions, sheet metal etc) metal to produce products for sale to end consumers.
fair value The theoretical price at which a contract/warrant should trade.
floor: A recognised low point in market prices. This may be a point the market does not expect the price to fall below, the lowest price achieved before the market rises or a level set by a customer as a minimum selling price.
forward month: The designated month in which a futures contract expires.
fundamental analysis: The study of the underlying physical factors that effect the supply and demand of metal.
futures contract: An agreement to buy or sell a fixed amount of metal for delivery on a fixed future date at a price agreed today.
GTC: Good 'til cancelled. An order to buy or sell at a specified price, which is valid at any time during market hours until executed or the order is cancelled.
gamma: The rate of change of the option delta for each increase in the price of the underlying.
give up: Where one broker enters into a contract with a customer which is then given up by that broker to another broker nominated by that customer. Usually done to reduce margin exposure or to reduce warrant delivery obligations. See also “transfer”.
grantor: The seller of an option contract, who in turn receives a non-refundable option premium from the taker.
haircut: A percentage reduction in the stated value of collateral put up for margining purposes with the London Clearing House (LCH).
hedge: Futures or options transactions entered into with the motivation to reduce risk.
hedger: Person undertaking a hedge.
holder: The buyer of an option, more commonly referred to as the taker.
house account: An account designated for the brokers' own transactions.
initial deposit/margin: Funds put up as security for the guarantee of the contract fulfilment at the beginning of a futures or options contract.
integrated producer: A producer who also owns the smelting and semi-fabricating facilities.
interest yield: In the context of the LME, interest yield refers to the profit earned by borrowing metal in a contango market, sometimes giving the user a greater return than is available from the current interest rate on money.
in-the-money: A term used to describe an option contract that is showing a profit.
intrinsic value: An element of an options premium. It is the amount by which an option is in-the-money.
kerb: A trading session when open-outcry transactions occur freely outside of scheduled ring times and when all or some of the LME metals are traded simultaneously.
LCH: The London Clearing House.
lending: One form of carry. In this case the simultaneous selling of metal for a near dated prompt and the buying of that metal for a later dated prompt. In effect the party is lending the metal for the period.
lifting a leg: The closing of one side of a balanced position, thus exposing oneself to price movement.
limit up/down The maximum price increase/decrease from the previous closing price. There are no set limits on LME contracts, but under LME rules, limits can be imposed under certain circumstances.
limit order: An order in which a customer stipulates the maximum/minimum price acceptable.
liquid market: A market where selling/buying can be achieved readily.
long: An open position for the purchase of metal.
lot: A specified quantity of a single contractual unit (e.g. LME Copper 1lot = 25 tonnes)
MASP: Monthly average settlement price. The average of the daily official settlement prices for the month.
MIT: Market-if-touched. An order that becomes a market order if a specified price is achieved. A sell MIT order is placed above the current market price, a buy MIT order is placed below the current market price.
margin: The amount of money/collateral called by the LCH for the purpose of insuring against loss on an open position.
margin call: A request by the LCH to make an additional margin payment, because of adverse price movement on the position. Some times called variation margin.
market maker: In LME terms, a broker who quotes prices for both buying and selling metal. LME brokers are allowed to make markets to their customers but are not obliged to do so.
matching: The process by which trades are input by two brokers who have made a trade with each other in order to confirm the trade.
matching period: A specified period of time, by which trades must be matched.
maturity: The date when a futures contract that has not been offset by an opposite position must be settled by delivery of physical metal.
merchant: A dealer in physical metal who sources stocks and markets for customers but neither produces nor consumes metal for his own use.
min-max: The use of both put and call options, one as a grantor the other as a buyer, in order to obtain a flexible hedge within an upper and lower price range and at the same time to eliminate or reduce the adverse costs of premiums.
naked: An options position in which the grantor does not own the underlying metal.
nearby: The nearest delivery date or month to “cash”.
novation: The substitution of a new contract for a previous one; or, of one party in the contract for another.
OTC: Over the counter: A derivative transaction that is not standardised nor transacted on an exchange.
offer: The quoted selling price for metal. See also “‘ask”’.
official prices: The last bid and offer prices quoted in the second ring of the morning session, commonly used by industry as a reference price for the day.
offset: Closing of an open position. A sale offsets a long position. A purchase offsets a short position.
offset hedge: A trade designed to nullify price risk arisen from a physical position.
open outcry: A method of trading employed on the LME, whereby brokers sitting in the “ring”, makes bids and offers for metal, stating the number of lots of metal, the price and delivery date required.
option: A contract that gives the buyer of the contract the right but not the obligation to buy or sell a futures contract at a set price. The buyer pays a premium for this right.
out-of-the-money: A term used to describe an option contract that is showing a loss.
physical: Trades that result in the delivery of the commodity i.e. not hedging, speculation or arbitrage.
position: The net tonnage a party has bought or sold on any given prompt date. Also the overall position, being the net tonnage bought or sold for all prompt dates combined.
position limit: The maximum overall position a broker allows a customer. The limit may vary according to whether the customer is long or short and depending on the type of business in which they are involved.
pre-market: The morning trading between brokers which is carried out inter –office prior to the first LME ring session.
premium: A one-off payment, made at the outset, to purchase an option. The premium is a write-off unless the option is traded on either at a profit or when some or all of the premium may be recovered.
principal to principal: A contract where each party is acting as principal on its own account. LME client contracts are between brokers and customers, where each is responsible for its own obligations. LME Exchange contracts are between clearing members of the Exchange. These are novated overnight so that the LCH has a principal-to-principal contract with each clearing member.
producer’s hedge: The purchase of futures or options on futures or both as protection against a fall in raw material prices.
prompt: Due for immediate delivery.
prompt date: The delivery date of a futures contract. On the LME the prompt date for a cash trade is two business days forward, so the last date an open position can be closed is two business days before prompt. See “‘tom next”’.
put option: A contract that gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to sell metal futures at a set price (the strike price) on a given date.
RIE: A recognised Investment Exchange under the terms of the Financial Services Act 1986 and its successor the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.
resistance level: A level at which a price trend is halted either temporarily or totally. See also “‘floor’” and “‘ceiling’”.
refinery: A processing plant usually associated with a smelter that produces high purity metal.
ring: The circle of seats on the LME floor which brokers occupy when trading. More commonly the term is used to describe the periods of trading which are broken down in to 5 minute sessions for each metal.
ring dealer: LME member firms that have the exclusive right to deal on the market floor. (Category 1)
roll: A carry transaction, whereby an open position is “closed out” and replaced with a similar position for a prompt date further ahead.
round turn: The complete transaction of a closed out futures contract, i.e both the buying and selling operations. Commission rates are sometimes quoted on a round turn basis.
secondary metal: Scrap metal that has been recycled.
semi-fabricator: A company that processes refined material into shapes or forms for use by a fabricator.
semis: Semi-fabricated products.
settlement price: The official cash sellers price (offer) announced each day by the LME, which the London Clearing House uses to settle contracts.
short: An open position for the sale of metal.
smelter: A processor of mine feed or scrap material (secondary smelter) which produces crude metal.
spot: The first deliverable prompt date and the price quoted for it. On the LME the term ‘cash’ is more commonly used.
spread: A term referring to the difference in two prices. The contango or backwardation between two prompt dates or the difference between the bid and offer price.
squeeze: Excess demand over supply on a particular prompt date or period that causes the price (s) for that date (period) to rise more sharply than surrounding prices.
stockist: A distributor of semi-fabricated products who holds stock for sale to consumers.
stop-loss order: An order to close a position should the market rise above or below a stated level in order to minimise loss.
strike price: The value of the underlying futures contract determined at the time of purchasing an option.
synthetic: A strategy of buying a combination of futures and put options to achieve the equivalent position of buying a call option or buying a combination of futures and call options to achieve the equivalent position of buying a put option.
swap: In LME terms, the exchange of an open futures contract for some other form of collateral. It could be swapped for another futures contract, for an option contract or for physical material.
switch: The exchange of one warrant for another, in order to change the location, brand or shape or the exchange of one futures contract into another, usually to change the prompt date.
T/Cs: a treatment charge made by galvanisers and refiners for their services.
technical analysis: The study of charts of historical price movements to establish a pattern in order to predict price movements and establish trigger points when either a sale or purchase should be made.
theta: The measure of change to the value of an option with the passing of time.
tick: The minimum change in price from one quote to the next for a futures contract.
toll smelting: See “‘custom smelter”’.
tom: An abbreviation of tomorrow, which in LME terms means the next business day.
tom next: See “‘cash today’”.
touched: The phrase ‘at market if touched’ refers to an order to execute a buy/sell trade should the market reach a stated price level.
traded option: An option contract that can be bought and sold freely up to the declaration date.
transfer: The movement of a customer’s contract from one broker’s account to another, usually done to reduce margin exposure or to net down warrant delivery obligations. See also “give-ups”’.
value: An LME term indicating a price that has been traded but is no longer being quoted by either buyers or sellers.
value date: The prompt date of a futures contract, most commonly used when referring to the underlying futures contract for an option.
variation margin: Additional funds required to maintain the cover provided by the initial margin when there has been an adverse price movement on the market. See also “‘initial margin’”.
vega: The measure of change to the value of an option in relation to a change in the volatility.
volatility: The measure of price change for a particular metal over a period of time. Volatility is measured historically in order to assess future or implied volatility.
warrant: A document of possession, issued by the warehouse company, for each lot of LME approved metal held within an LME approved facility. Warrants are used as the means of delivering metal under LME contracts.
writer: The seller of an option contract. See also “‘grantor’”.
The material contained in these pages is for information purposes only. It is not an offer, recommendation or solicitation to participate in any financial transactions. It is understood that the material is an independent view of how a steel futures market may operate and does not involve or necessary coincide with the views of The Steel Index. Transactions with futures, options, swaps and other derivative instruments are entirely voluntary and involve risk which may not be suitable for the specific financial objectives. If a company wishes to use “futures” they should seek appropriate expert advice.