S&P 500 Futures

S&P Futures Market

As part of the financial futures complex of products within commodities futures, the S&P 500 futures index is one of the most widely traded index commodities futures contracts in the U.S. stock portfolio managers who want to hedge risk over a certain period of time often use S&P 500 Futures to do so. By shorting these contracts, stock portfolio managers can protect themselves from the downside price risk of the broader market.

S&P 500 Market History

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) introduced trading in S&P 500 futures in 1982. The contracts are based on the Standard and Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500), which contains many of the largest companies in the world. Therefore, movement in the direction of the S&P futures is one of the best indicators of overall short-term market direction. The S&P e-mini futures contract was introduced by the CME 1997, after the value of the existing S&P contract (then valued at 500 times the index, or over $500,000) became too large for many small traders.

S&P 500 Facts

S&P 500 futures contracts give buyers the right to a basket of the stocks in the S&P 500 on expiration date. Now priced at 250 times the index, they're used mostly by institutional investors with the exception of e-mini futures contracts, which have a lower value and are used by retail investors.

S&P Futures Trading

The main reason that S&P futures are so popular for detecting strength is because the contract trades 24 hours a day on financial exchanges around the world. It allows traders and brokers to gauge the futures levels within commodities futures markets before the actual stock markets open.

  • S&P 500 Futures are traded in the CME’s open outcry format and electronically on the CME’s Globex platform.
  • S&P 500 Index Futures contracts expire each quarter, always on the third Friday of March, June, September and December.
  • The CME offers two sizes of the S&P 500 contract: the standard "big" futures contract and the S&P 500 "e-mini" contract:
  • The standard contract is what the institutions and commercials trade, electronically and in the open-outcry format.
  • At one-fifth the size, the S&P e-mini futures contract is more affordable to retail traders, with lower day-trading margin requirements, and traded electronically.
  • Delivery months for S&P 500 futures occur in all months.


S&P Futures Contract Specifications  

Contract SymbolContract UnitPrice Quotation
ES$50 per contractdollars per contract
Trading ExchangeTrading HoursTick Value
CME GLOBEX17:00 - 16:000.25 index points = $12.50

Contract specifications are for the E-mini S&P.


Fundamental reports guide for S&P 500 futures market

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