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How Do Crypto Derivatives Work?

March 07, 2023 - 7 min read

A derivative in the world of cryptocurrencies is a financial contract valued on how well an underlying asset (like Ethereum) or commodity performs in a given time frame.

With the help of derivatives, traders and investors can trade on the future of cryptocurrency price worth without owning the asset. They are also used to manage risk, predict outcomes about price changes, or try to make money off the discrepancy between an asset’s current spot price and its potential future value. This is the alpha that traders are looking for from which they’ll take their profits.

Spot Trading vs. Derivatives Trading 

There are many ways to buy and sell assets on the financial markets. In this article, we’ll just focus on two major approaches: spot trading and derivatives trading.

Spot trading is the process of acquiring and selling assets for prompt delivery. When you purchase an asset on the spot market, you consent to acquire it at the going rate and receive it right away. When you sell a piece of property on the spot market, you consent to deliver the item in return for payment at the going rate. Nice and simple.

In contrast, dealing in derivatives entails buying and selling contracts whose value is based on how well an underlying asset performs. Unlike traditional contracts, which are delivered immediately, derivatives contracts are often left open for months on exchanges and subsequently settled at a final date.

Spot trading and derivatives trading are totally different. You can own the underlying asset and take physical possession of it in spot trading. In derivatives trading, you buy and sell contracts derived from the asset and do not actually take possession of a physical asset. This has been a common practice for investing in agricultural assets (which involve future delivery of a commodity, food) stretching as far back as the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Hellenistic Egypt.

Since the value of a derivative contract depends on the underlying asset’s performance, which various circumstances can influence, trading derivatives can be more complicated and dangerous than spot trading. Before engaging in any derivative transactions, traders should thoroughly weigh the risks.

Types of Derivatives Trading

Several types of derivatives are commonly traded in the financial markets, including:

Futures Contracts

A futures contract is a kind of derivative that enables traders and investors to make predictions about how much an asset will cost in the future. An agreement to buy or sell a particular quantity of a cryptocurrency at a predetermined price on a specific date in the future is known as a futures contract in the world of cryptocurrencies.

For instance, a trader might sign a futures contract to purchase one Bitcoin for $20,000 in one year. The trader will profit if Bitcoin rises to a price of $60,000 during that time. The trader will lose money if the price drops.

Futures contracts are often traded on exchanges, and the supply and demand for the underlying asset determine the contract’s price. The underlying asset’s performance, which can be impacted by various variables, including market trends, economic conditions, and regulatory changes, determines the value of a futures contract.

Futures contracts can be used to manage risk, make predictions about price trends, or attempt to profit by exploiting the price differential between an asset’s spot price and its future price. The mechanics of futures contracts can be difficult for traders and investors to comprehend, and they also carry a high level of risk.

Crypto Options Trading

The holder of an option has the right, but not the responsibility, to purchase or sell the underlying asset for a specified price on or before a specific date. Options in cryptocurrency trading enable traders to predict a cryptocurrency’s price.

There are two main types of options: 

  1. Call options: The ability to purchase the underlying asset at a predetermined price, or strike price, is provided by a call option.
  1. Put options: The right to sell the underlying asset at the strike price is provided by a put option.

Options are agreements that grant the holder the choice—but not the obligation—to purchase or sell a particular asset at a particular price on or before a particular date. For this right, the option buyer must pay the seller a premium.

For example, if you think that Bitcoin will increase in price over the next month. You can buy a call option that provides you the freedom to buy Bitcoin at the $30,000 strike price at any moment before the option expires. The striking price is the predetermined price at which a put or call option can be executed under an options contract.

Suppose the price of Bitcoin does surpass $30,000. In that case, you can exercise your option and buy Bitcoin at the lower strike price, which you can then resell for a profit on the open market. Otherwise, if it falls below the strike price, you can let the option expire without losing anything more than the premium you initially paid.

On the other hand, a put option gives you the authority to sell Bitcoin at a strike price of $30,000 if you think the price of the cryptocurrency will decline over the next month. You will realize a profit if the cryptocurrency price drops under $30,000; or else let it expire if the price of Bitcoin does not decrease.

Perpetual Futures

Perpetual futures, often known as a perpetual contract or simply perps, enables traders to speculate on the future value of an asset such as a cryptocurrency. Like traditional futures contracts, perpetual futures do not have a set expiration date. As opposed to this, they enable traders to hold a long or short position on the underlying asset indefinitely and are built to mirror the cash market.

Traders who buy a perpetual contract hoping that the underlying asset will increase in value in the future are going long. In contrast, traders who sell a perpetual contract hoping that the underlying asset will decrease in value in the future are said to be going short.

Perpetual futures offer several advantages over traditional futures contracts, including higher liquidity, lower fees, and the ability to hold a position indefinitely. However, they also come with additional risks, such as the risk of margin calls and the risk of counterparty default. It is important for traders to fully understand the mechanics and risks of perpetual futures before entering into any trades.

These contracts outline the upcoming trade-in of one asset for another at a predetermined price. A trader might, as an example, establish a swap agreement to exchange Bitcoin for Ethereum later on.

For example, if you think that the price of Ethereum will increase soon. A perpetual futures contract’s long position can be opened by purchasing a specified number of contracts at a predetermined price. If the Ethereum price increases, you can gain profits by selling the contracts back on the market at a higher price or bear a loss if the price of Ethereum drops.

If perpetual futures have the required margin to hold onto the position, you are free to keep onto your holdings for as long as you like.

The Uses of Derivatives in Crypto Trading

Here are a few specific instances of using derivatives in cryptocurrency trading:

Trading speculation: Traders can use derivatives to make predictions about the course of cryptocurrency prices. For instance, a trader anticipating a rise in cryptocurrency prices would purchase a call option, which would let them purchase the asset at a specified price on or before a specified date.

Risk hedging: Cryptocurrency traders can utilize derivatives to manage their risk. For instance, a trader with a sizable position in a cryptocurrency can use a futures contract to lock in an exact price at which they can sell the asset later, safeguarding themselves against a potential price decline.

Leverage: Investors can use borrowed cash to trade a larger position than they could with their funds because many derivatives can be exchanged with it. This can raise the profit or loss that could result from trading.

How to Effectively Trade Crypto Derivatives

Trading cryptocurrency derivatives can be challenging and dangerous. If you wish to trade cryptocurrency derivatives, you should first understand the underlying asset and how the derivative works. Setting stop-loss orders and using risk management strategies, such as portfolio diversification, reduces the possibility of losses. 

You must stay track of news and developments in the market that can impact the value of the assets you are trading. You can make wise trading selections using technical analysis tools like chart patterns and indicators. Before engaging in any trading activity, remember that it is crucial to thoroughly assess your financial condition and risk tolerance.

Final Thoughts

Financial instruments like derivatives can be complicated and risky. Before trading derivative contracts, traders and investors should thoroughly understand how derivatives work and carefully weigh the risks.

Ultimately, your investment goals, risk tolerance, and the possible hazards and rewards of the instruments should all be carefully considered when deciding whether to employ derivatives. Before making any decisions, it can be beneficial to seek advice from a financial advisor or other experts.

To level up and gain a deeper knowledge of all things related to the future of the cryptocurrency industry, check out the latest content in the Supra Academy section.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not financial or investment advice. This should not be used as the foundation for making investment decisions, as a suggestion to enter into any transaction, or as a suggestion to partake in any investment strategy.


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  2. Dilmegani, C. (2021, 11 Oct.). What are crypto derivatives? Types, features & top exchanges. AIMultiple.
  3. Shrivastava, H.(2022, 3 Jun.). What are crypto derivatives? WazirX.
  4. Stevens, R. (2022, 24 Oct.). ​Why trade crypto derivatives when you can trade spot? CoinDesk.
  5. Tang, N. (2021, 16 Apr.). What are crypto derivatives: Most popular bitcoin derivatives explained. Phemex.
  6. (2021, 21 Oct.). Blockchain and financial derivatives. Cryptopedia.


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