Normal Backwardation

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Definition of 'Normal Backwardation'

Normal backwardation, also sometimes called backwardation, is the market condition wherein the price of a forward or futures contract is trading below the expected spot price at contract maturity. The resulting futures or forward curve would typically be downward sloping (i.e. "inverted"), since contracts for further dates would typically trade at even lower prices. (The curves in question plot market prices for various contracts at different maturities—cf. term structure of interest rates)

The opposite market condition to normal backwardation is known as contango.

A backwardation starts when the difference between the forward price and the spot price is less than the cost of carry, or when there can be no delivery arbitrage because the asset is not currently available for purchase.

Futures contract price includes compensation for the risk transferred from the asset holder. This makes actual price on expiry to be lower than futures contract price. Backwardation very seldom arises in money commodities like gold or silver. In the early 1980s, there was a one-day backwardation in silver while some metal was physically moved from COMEX to CBOT warehouses.[citation needed] Gold has historically been positive with exception for momentary backwardations (hours) since gold futures started trading on the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange in 1972.

The term is sometimes applied to forward prices other than those of futures contracts, when analogous price patterns arise. For example, if it costs more to lease silver for 30 days than for 60 days, it might be said that the silver lease rates are "in backwardation".

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