Contract for Difference
Also known as CFD. This is an agreement between buyer and seller to exchange the difference between the current value of the asset and the initial value of the asset when the contract is initiated. For example, suppose the initial price of share XYZ is $100 and a CFD for 1000 shares is exchanged. Both the buyer and seller must post some margin. If the price goes to $105, then the buyer gets $5,000 from the seller. If the price goes to $95, the buyer pays the seller $5,000. This contract avoids ownership of the stock and all the associated transactions issues (like stamp taxes). The contract also allows for leverage (typically 10:1) because the margin that must be posted is only a fraction of the value of the underlying asset. These contracts can also be on the difference of two assets' prices. They can also be on the difference of a single asset of different maturities (like a bond or futures contracts). CFDs are sometimes known as spread trading.
Copyright © 2011 Campbell R. Harvey, Professor of Finance, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University