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Contango

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Definition of 'Contango'

Contango is the market condition wherein the price of a forward or futures contract is trading above the expected spot price at contract maturity. The futures or forward curve would typically be upward sloping (i.e. "normal"), since contracts for further dates would typically trade at even higher prices. (The curves in question plot market prices for various contracts at different maturities—cf. term structure of interest rates)

A contango is normal for a non-perishable commodity that has a cost of carry. Such costs include warehousing fees and interest forgone on money tied up, less income from leasing out the commodity if possible (e.g. gold). For perishable commodities, price differences between near and far delivery are not a contango. Different delivery dates are in effect entirely different commodities in this case, since fresh eggs today will not still be fresh in 6 months' time, 90-day treasury bills will have matured, etc.

The opposite market condition to contango is known as backwardation.

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