Backwardation is a term used in finance to describe a situation where the future price of a commodity is lower than the current price. This is the opposite of contango, where the future price of a commodity is higher than the current price.  

Backwardation can occur when there is a commodity shortage in the market, and traders expect the price to rise. It can also occur when the demand for the commodity is high, and traders expect the price to fall in the future. 

What is Backwardation? 

Backwardation is a market state in which future prices are lower than current prices. This condition is the opposite of contango, where future prices are higher than current prices. Backwardation can occur in markets for physical commodities, futures contracts, and other derivatives.  

The cause of backwardation is typically due to an anticipated shortage in the supply of the underlying asset. For example, if there is a drought and the crop yield is expected to be lower than normal, the price of wheat futures will be in backwardation. Farmers will hold on to their wheat in anticipation of higher prices, while buyers are willing to pay a premium for wheat to secure supply.  

Backwardation can also be caused by government policy. For example, if the government imposes a tax on wheat, the price of wheat futures will be backward. This is because the tax will increase the cost of wheat in the future while the present price will be lower.  

In general, backwardation is considered a bullish sign for a market, as it indicates strong demand for the underlying asset. 

Advantage of Backwardation 

The easiest way to take advantage of a backwardation market state is to simply buy the underlying asset. This is because, in a backwardation market, the spot price is usually lower than the future price. So, by buying the asset now, you can sell it in the future at a higher price and pocket the difference. 

Of course, not everyone is able to buy the underlying asset. For example, if you are a currency trader, you cannot directly buy the underlying asset (e.g. a barrel of oil). In this case, you can take advantage of the backwardation market state by selling the asset now and buying it back in the future at a lower price. This way, you will still be able to pocket the difference between the spot price and the future price. 

Disadvantage of backwardation 

Backwardation is when the futures price is lower than the spot price. This can be disadvantageous for investors because it indicates that the market is expecting prices to fall in the future. This can lead to investors selling their assets to avoid losses, further driving prices down.  

 Backwardation can also make it difficult to hedge against price movements, as investors may need to sell their assets to meet their obligations. 

How do traders use backwardation? 

Traders use backwardation to predict future price movements. If the market is backward, it means that the prices of futures contracts are lower than the spot price. This usually happens when the demand for a commodity is high, and the supply is low.  

If traders believe that the prices of futures contracts will go up in the future, they will buy them at lower prices. This allows them to profit when the contracts’ prices increase. 

Causes of backwardation 

There can be a few different causes of backwardation in finance. One possibility is that it could be due to a lack of available funds. This could happen if there is a great demand for a certain asset, but not enough people are willing to sell it. This could lead to a situation where the prices of assets are rising, but there needs to be more available to meet the demand.  

Another possibility is that a change in market conditions could cause backwardation. This could happen if there is a sudden increase in the demand for a certain asset, but the supply remains the same. This could lead to an asset shortage and a rise in prices. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The main difference between backwardation and contango is that backwardation is when the price of a commodity is lower in the future than it is in the present, while contango is when the price of a commodity is higher in the future than it is in the present.  

This difference can be due to a number of factors, including expectations about future demand and supply, and the costs of storage and transportation. 

There is normal backwardation when the futures price is less than the anticipated future spot price. An inverted futures curve is frequently mistaken for a normal backwardation market. 

Since contracts for later dates would often trade at even lower values, the overall futures curve would normally be downwards sloping (i.e., “inverted”). The phrase “backwardation” may relate to “positive basis,” which happens when the current spot price is higher than the future price. In practice, the predicted future spot price is uncertain. 

A normal backwardation curve in finance is one where the interest rate on a forward contract is lower than the spot rate. This is because the holder of the forward contract can earn a higher rate of return by investing the money at the spot rate and then receiving the money at the forward rate. 

Backwardation is an important financial concept that can be used to generate profits. By taking advantage of backwardation, investors can buy the commodity at the current price and then sell it at a higher price in the future, thus generating a profit. 

Super backwardation is a term used in finance to describe a situation where the futures price of a commodity is lower than the spot price. This often happens when there is a great demand for the commodity, and traders are willing to pay a premium to get it now rather than wait for delivery in the future. Super backwardation can also be caused by a lack of supply of the commodity, which drives up the price. 


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