Allowances in Futures Contracts

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Allowances in the context of futures contracts refer to discounts or premiums that are permitted for commodities that do not meet the specifications of the par grade or location as specified in the contract. These allowances are an essential aspect of futures trading and play a crucial role in ensuring that contracts remain practical and adaptable to real-world market conditions. They allow for flexibility in the delivery process and help maintain the integrity of futures markets.


Futures contracts are standardized agreements to buy or sell a particular quantity of a commodity at a predetermined price on a specified future date. To facilitate trading, these contracts often include specific requirements for the quality, grade, and location of the commodity to be delivered. The par grade and location are the reference standards that both parties involved in the contract agree upon.[1] However, in real-world markets, not all commodities available for delivery may precisely match the par grade or location described in the futures contract. This is where allowances come into play. Allowances are deviations from the par grade or location that are permitted without voiding the contract. These deviations are essential because they account for variations in the quality and availability of the commodity, ensuring that the contract remains practical and functional.

Types of Allowances[edit]

Allowances can take various forms, depending on the specific commodity and market conditions. Here are some common types of allowances in futures contracts:

Quality Allowance[edit]

Quality allowances allow for variations in the quality or grade of the commodity. For example, in a wheat futures contract, there may be an allowance for a certain percentage of lower-grade wheat to be delivered without penalty.

Location Allowance[edit]

Location allowances permit the delivery of the commodity at a different location than the one specified in the contract. This recognizes that commodities may be stored in various places and allows for flexibility in the delivery process.

Weight Allowance[edit]

Weight allowances account for variations in the quantity or weight of the commodity delivered. For instance, if a corn futures contract specifies the delivery of 5,000 bushels of corn, a weight allowance might permit a small variance in the delivered quantity.

Time Allowance[edit]

Time allowances address the timing of delivery. They allow for delivery within a specified range of dates, recognizing that the exact delivery date may not always align precisely with the contract's expiration date.

Importance of Allowances[edit]

Allowances are crucial for several reasons:

Market Adaptability: Allowances make futures contracts more adaptable to real-world market conditions. They acknowledge that not all commodities are uniform and that variations exist.

Market Liquidity: By accommodating variations in quality, location, and other factors, allowances can enhance market liquidity. Traders are more willing to participate in futures markets when they know there is some flexibility in delivery specifications.

Risk Management: For producers and end-users of commodities, allowances can help manage risks associated with the delivery process. They provide a degree of protection against unexpected deviations from contract specifications.

Market Efficiency: Allowances contribute to the overall efficiency of futures markets. They help prevent minor discrepancies from causing contract defaults and market disruptions.


  1. ALLOWANCES. Intercontinental Exchange.