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How to trade indices CFDs
Learn the basics of trading indices CFDs, including what they are, how they work, and why traders love them!
Indices CFDs are a quick, convenient, and cost-effective way to trade an overall market.
Indices CFDs are ideal for diversification and risk distribution offering exposure to a range of assets across a specific sector or an entire economy in a single trade.
You can enter both ‘long’ (buy) and ‘short’ (sell) positions to maximise opportunities for returns.
Margin and leverage in indices CFD trading means you need less capital for large trades.
Like all leveraged products, indices CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly.
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What are indices CFDs?
To define indices CFDs, let us first consider their two parts individually: indices and CFDs.
Indices, also known as indexes, are financial instruments that represent a collection or portfolio of related assets, such as stocks from various companies. Imagine an index as a virtual basket that holds a variety of assets rather than relying on just one specific asset. Instead of following the performance of a single company's stock, the index "tracks" or measures the overall performance of the entire group of assets it represents. The assets are grouped together based on certain criteria such as prominent national companies, a specific sector or an entire economy. For example, the well-known S&P 500 (SPX500) comprises 500 of the largest companies listed on US stock exchanges.
Mini indices provide the same exposure as the main index but offer smaller lot sizes, so they cost less than their 'major' counterparts. Minis are a great option for new or cautious traders to 'test the waters' of trading indices CFDs with less capital. It's easy to spot a mini index with FXTM, as they have an '_m' at the end of their name. For example, the mini version for the S&P 500 is SPX500_m.
CFDs is the abbreviation for Contract for Difference, a form of derivative trading. A derivative is a financial contract between two parties that takes its value from the price of an underlying asset, like the indices.
Essentially a CFD allows you to speculate and potentially profit from changes in the asset’s price - both increases and decreases, depending on your position - without owning the asset itself.
Indices CFDs are a form of derivative trading specifically for indices, which track the overall performance of a collection of stocks and not an individual asset or commodity.
How are indices weighted and valued?
The value of an index is calculated based on its weighting.
The type of weighting is usually determined by the index’s managing company. Two weighting methodologies commonly used are price and capitalisation. Let’s start with price.
In a price-weighted index, each company's stock is weighted by its price per share, and the index value is an average of the share prices of all the companies. The higher the price of a stock, the greater the weighting of that stock within the index.
For example, let’s imagine there’s a stock index called ABC Index and it’s comprised of 5 companies with the following names and share prices.
To calculate the index value, we add all the share prices together and divide by the number of companies included in the index.
Because Business B has the highest share price, it has a greater weighting than Company A and Corporation C. This means that any movement in the share price of Business B will have a greater impact on the overall index value than changes in the share prices of Company A or Corporation C.
The Dow Jones and the Nikkei are examples of price-weighted indices.
In a capitalisation-weighted index, also known as cap-weighted, the stocks are weighted relative to each company's market capitalisation, or market cap.
The total number of outstanding shares is multiplied by the market price to calculate market cap. The index is then weighted proportionally to each stock’s market cap as a percentage of the total market cap of all included stocks.
Let’s look at our example of the imaginary ABC Index again. This time, the companies are listed with their outstanding shares and market price.
In this instance, Corporation C has the highest weighting as it has the highest market cap of the companies included within the index, despite a lower price per share. A change in the market share price for Corporation C would have a bigger impact on the index's performance compared a change in any of the others.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are examples of cap-weighted indices.
Leverage and margin
A key advantage of trading CFDs is that you only need to deposit a small percentage of the total trade value, known as margin.
Unlike traditional stock trading, where you’d need to own the physical shares, CFDs allow you to speculate on indices without owning the underlying assets.
Using margin gives you greater exposure to the market because profits and losses will be calculated based on the full position size, not only the funds used as margin.
Let’s say you wanted to buy $100 worth of stocks. Typically, you’d have to pay $100 for the asset. But if you had a leverage of 10:1, for example, you’d only have to place 10% of your total trade value down as capital, in this case being $10. So, you still have the advantage of the higher trade value, but with less capital required.
Leverage is higher with indices CFDs than with traditional trading
Using a smaller portion of your capital when opening a position allows for potentially greater returns. The crucial aspect to remember is that leverage carries equal risk to amplify losses. As such, it’s essential to understand the risks of margin and leverage and apply effective risk management strategies to prevent significant losses.
Risks of trading indices CFDs
Potential for increased losses
While indices CFDs offer higher leverage than traditional financial instruments, helping to boost potential returns, they have the same capacity to amplify losses. The markets can also be fast-paced and volatile. In some instances, this would mean the need for a margin call, or adding funds, to maintain your position.
Although trading indices CFDs spares you from many of the costs of traditional trading, you are required to pay the costs of spreads at entry and exit positions. This means that it’s potentially more difficult to make small profits.
You may also need to factor in swaps – the cost of keeping your trade open overnight. If you enter a long position (i.e. you buy expecting the market to rise), you will need to pay a small amount of interest every night to keep your trade open. Remember to factor in the cost of the spreads and swaps when calculating profits or losses.
How do indices CFDs work?
Engaging in a contract
The CFD contract is an agreement between two parties – the trader, or ‘buyer’ and the broker, or ‘seller’. As the trader, you’ll need to decide which index to trade and whether you think the price will increase or decrease. If you think the price will go up, you’d open a long position (buy), or if you think it will fall, you’d open a short position.
How does the contract work?
As its name suggests, the contract is concerned with the difference in price. Specifically, it looks at the difference in price from when the contract is entered to when it’s exited. If your position was correct, you’d profit, and the ‘seller’ who entered the contract with you would pay you, the ‘buyer’, the difference in the price between entering and exiting prices. If, however, your position was incorrect, you’d be at a loss, having to pay the ‘seller’ the difference in price.
Calculating contract profit or loss
The key calculation to work out your profit or loss is the difference between the price at which you enter and the price when you exit, multiplied by your number of CFD units.
Calculation examples don’t take into account spreads, commissions, or swap rates.
Example of profit in a ‘long’ (buy) trade for the NQ100_m.
- Market entered at 13300
- Stop loss set at 13000 (not triggered)
- Take profit triggered at 14300
Example of loss result in a ‘short’ (sell) trade for the SPX500_m.
- Market entered at 4200
- Take profit set at 4140 (not triggered)
- Stop loss triggered at 4238
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Economic indicators, such as USD growth, inflation rates, employment data, and central bank decisions, can impact index prices. Strong economic data may lead to higher index prices, indicating a robust economy, while weak data may result in lower prices.
You can see a comprehensive list of upcoming events and data releases using the FXTM economic calendar.
What CFD markets can I trade?
FXTM offers a range of indices CFDs based on some of the most popular global indices.
|Symbols & Names||Description|
|AUS200 (ASX - Australia)||The AUS200 index is the blue-chip Australian stock market index, which tracks the value of 200 of Australia’s largest public companies by market capitalisation.|
|FCHI (CAC 40 - France)||The CAC 40 tracks 40 of the most significant securities listed on the Euronext Paris. This index indicates the health of the Paris stock market and follows a cap-weighted scheme.|
|HSI50 (Hang Seng – Hong Kong)||Hang Seng China 50 index constituents include the top companies from Hong Kong’s stock exchange. It’s one of the major stocks indices in Asia and is cap-weighted.|
|JAP225 (Nikkei - Japan)||The Nikkei is composed of 225 large Japanese blue-chip companies and serves as the top indicator of the Japanese stock market. It’s weighted by price.|
|SPN35 (Ibex35 - Spain)||The Spain 35 index acts as a benchmark for Spain's main stock exchange. It follows a capitalisation-weighted scheme and includes 35 of the top publicly traded companies.|
|STOX50 (EuroStoxx 50 - Europe)||EuroStoxx 50 comprises Eurozone stocks from 9 countries but is mainly dominated by French and German companies. Stocks featured are of blue-chip market leaders in key sub-sectors.|
|UK100 (FTSE 100 - United Kingdom)||The FTSE 100 is one of the most popular indices to trade. The cap-weighted index includes shares of 100 large companies featured on the London Stock Exchange. It reflects more than 80 percent of the UK's market capitalisation and is the most regarded benchmark.|
|NQ100_m (Nasdaq 100 - United States)||The Nasdaq 100 mini index offers the CFD option of the NASDAQ-100 Index from the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, which includes 100 non-financial companies in sectors such as technology, telecom, and biotech.|
|CHNA50_m (China A50 - China)||A mini version of the China A50 index, comprising the largest 50 A Share companies by full market capitalisation of the securities listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.|
|Nifty50_m (NIFTY50 - India)||This mini version of the NIFTY 50 is a benchmark Indian stock market index that represents the weighted average of 50 of the largest Indian companies listed on the National Stock Exchange.|
|SPX500_m (S&P500 - United States)||It’s composed of Eurozone stocks from 9 countries but is mainly dominated by French and German companies. Stocks featured are of blue-chip market leaders in key sub-sectors.|
|WSt30_m (Dow Jones - United States)||The Wall Street 30, a mini index, mirroring the renowned Dow Jones Industrial Average index, which comprises 30 prominent companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States.|
|GER40_m (DAX - Germany)||A mini index reflecting the DAX, an index comprising 40 major German blue-chip companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.|
How to trade CFD indices on FXTM
Open an FXTM account
Get expert analysis from our in-house commentators. Or use our innovative trading tools to identify opportunities to match your goals and preferences.
Find your opportunity
Simply fill out the online form to get started. It’s quick and easy – and there’s no obligation to add funds until you want to trade.
Place your trade
Choose your preferred index from the available options, whether to short or go long and your position size. You can also use our range of stop-losses to manage your risk effectively.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
By using a CFD, or contract for difference, for indices trading, traders can profit from whenever prices either rise or fall. Traders can accomplish this by either opening a short (sell) or long (buy) position, depending on whether they think the index will fall or rise, respectively.