Financial Markets Book Financial Markets For The Rest Of Us
An Easy Guide To Money, Bonds, Futures, Stocks, Options, And Mutual Funds
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by Robert Hashemian

Page 167

market open. Remember that there is also the time value to consider here (i.e., convergence). You would now be one day closer to maturity than the day before so the elapsed time is also a relevant factor in all this.

Now you may be tempted to try to get in on the action by jumping in the market and gobbling up some stocks at the open. And I would say, good luck. The average investor rarely can take advantage of this imbalance for two reasons. First off, you can't possibly buy enough of all the 500 stocks on the S&P 500 that fast (and if you could the commission would be hefty). Second, the rise in the S&P futures is pretty much immediate, leaving no chance for the individual investors to get in on the action. Who can buy so many stocks that fast? Large institutions for one, and all the trades are driven by computers which automatically kick into action every morning based on the S&P futures. When the S&P futures are above fair value, the computers buy stocks and sell futures until the balance is reached and S&P futures are once again stand at fair value.

The same situation applies when the S&P futures are below fair value (known as discount to fair value), only in reverse. In this case the computers sell stocks and buy futures until S&P futures stand at fair value. Meaning an immediate dip for the stocks at the open.

If the S&P futures happen to stand exactly at fair value at the market open, nothing would happen as far as programmed trading. There is no theoretical difference between S&P futures and cash when the futures are at fair value.

You may also have heard of the terms premium to cash and discount to cash. These terms are used when the value of the S&P futures are compared to cash rather than fair value. As the maturity date nears for


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    Table of Contents Copyright and Disclaimer Foreword Money
    Bonds Futures Stocks Options
    Mutual Funds Retirement Final Words Appendix A

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