Eurodollar futures have always been an important interest rate and credit risk benchmark. Investors will watch them in an even more vigorous way in today’s highly volatile COVID economy. Although the average investor may not know much about it, eurodollar futures contract prices serve professional investors as an important indicator of interest rates and credit demand. As such, they can be quite helpful when trying to determine the direction of future economic activity.
Surprisingly, the term “eurodollar” applies to any currency that is not held within its borders, not just U.S. dollars held in Europe. In other words, eurodollars are U.S. dollars held in foreign banks. Adding the euro- prefix to the currency of interest is also an acceptable form — Japanese yen held in China can be called euroyen.
What Are Eurodollar Futures?
The phrase "euro/dollar" (which sounds exactly like "eurodollar") refers to the EUR/USD currency pair, while "eurodollar" refers to U.S. dollars held outside the U.S. It is actually meant to denote a U.S. dollar-denominated time deposit held offshore from the U.S.
The eurodollar is one of many different types of futures. The price of a eurodollar futures contract is calculated according to the equation below:
Contract International Monetary Market (IMM) Index = 100 - LIBOR
For instance, if a eurodollar futures contract is trading at $97.00, the implied 3 month LIBOR settlement rate is 3% on a $1 million offshore deposit. Price and yield have an inverse relationship.
The eurodollar futures contract is one of the most popular electronically traded futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). The open interest and day-to-day volume of eurodollar futures contracts often surpasses crude oil, Treasury notes and E mini S&P 500 futures contracts. It also has the distinction of being one of the first cash settled futures contracts since its introduction in 1981.
Hedges can be put in place using eurodollar futures either against rising or falling interest rates. Corporate borrowers generally look to protect against rising rates, while lenders look to protect against falling rates. Retail traders can use eurodollar futures to employ trading methods such as contract spreading. Eurodollar futures normally exhibit low daily volatility, high liquidity and relatively smooth long term trends, making them a choice suitable for some non-directional trading strategies.
Best Brokers for Eurodollar Futures
Because the eurodollar is such a widely used financial instrument, you can trade them at nearly any reputable futures broker that offers an execution service in U.S. futures contracts. Make sure that you have good trading software to actually execute your trades.
How Much Is a Eurodollar Futures Contract?
Eurodollar futures contracts have a notional value that you can find through a set multiple of the underlying contract IMM Index, or International Monetary Market Index. The current value of each contract can be calculated as follows:
1 eurodollar futures contract = $2,500 x contract IMM Index (100 minus R where R = three-month London interbank offered rate (LIBOR) for spot settlement on 3rd Wednesday of the contract month)
A move of 1 basis point in a eurodollar futures contract (0.01) corresponds with $25 per contract. For instance, a change of 0.03 means a gain or loss of $75 for a trader with 1 contract based on a 3 bps move at $25 per bp.
You will likely be required to open a margin account with your broker before trading eurodollar futures. You can control a long or short position with margin. The broker provides the rest of the capital for the contract(s). You will also be required to maintain a certain amount of money in your account to keep the trade open. This is known as the maintenance margin.
Your maintenance margin may change based on your broker’s terms of service. It’s also much more commonly affected by market movements. If your position is losing money, then the maintenance margin increases, but if the position increases in value, then the margin required to hold it will typically decline. You may receive a margin call should the value of your contract fall below your broker’s margin requirements. The margin call is a communication to you requiring additional capital to keep the trade open. If you can’t meet it, the broker will generally close your trade.
Outlook on Eurodollar Futures
Eurodollar futures specialist Larry Berman expects the eurodollar yield curve to invert sometime in the middle of 2021. An inverted yield curve corresponds to a near-term credit contraction, as it represents short term borrowing rates being higher than long term rates. In an overleveraged U.S. market, a credit crunch can mean a significant recession.
The eurodollar yield curve also predicted a slower 2020 even without the coronavirus. Currently, the curve and contract prices both correspond to a market with relatively normal liquidity and credit flow. That liquidity and flow, however, is being artificially injected into world economies through central banks and via government support payouts to businesses and individuals. Should any aspect of this shaky setup change, the market could be in for substantial losses as insolvencies rise, loan payments fail and affected currencies weaken.
What Time Do Eurodollar Futures Open?
You can also trade eurodollar futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Globex electronic trading platform Sunday to Friday, 6 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Eurodollar futures contracts trade on the International Currency Exchange (ICE) from Sunday to Friday, 7:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST. A pre market opens at 7:30 p.m. EST from Sunday to Friday.
Strategies for Eurodollar Futures
The eurodollar futures market is a market for patient trading. Trends in the market tend to last for quite some time, and the changes in the market are not as violent as those in the securities market, for instance. Here are a few types of popular strategies that sophisticated investors use in the eurodollar futures market.
- Scalping: You may want to try to profit from very small movements so you can move in and out quickly and close positions before retiring for the day.
- Contract spreads: A trader will simultaneously purchase and sell futures contracts with different maturity dates. If you believe long-term interest rates will rise faster than short-term interest rates, you would buy the longer maturity future and sell the shorter-term future. The opposite applies for a flattening yield curve.
Moving with the Market
Though some experts avoid the question, the trillions of dollars that the U.S. digitally printed to float the economy will eventually change the nature of how the world does business with the dollar. You may be able to predict how the market will react using the eurodollar futures market and yield curve to your advantage.
If you love following the flow of money in the market, the eurodollar is a vital benchmark that you should understand closely. Futures contracts on the eurodollar are a great way to hedge against or speculate on U.S. dollar movements against other currencies. Eurodollar contracts are used for taking or reducing interest rate risk.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Eurodollar Futures affected by the Federal Reserve's monetary policy?
Yes, the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions can significantly impact Eurodollar Futures. Changes in interest rates implemented by the Fed can have ripple effects on market expectations and consequently influence the pricing of Eurodollar Futures contracts.
Do Eurodollar Futures require physical delivery?
No, Eurodollar Futures contracts are cash-settled, which means no physical delivery of Eurodollars occurs at maturity. Instead, traders either receive or pay the cash equivalent based on the final settlement price of the contract.
Can Eurodollar futures be settled before the maturity date?
Yes, Eurodollar futures contracts can be settled before the maturity date through an offsetting trade in the opposite direction. This allows investors to take profits or cut losses before the contract expires.