Spot Market: Definition, Types and Benefits

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  • 03 Nov 2023
Spot Market: Definition, Types and Benefits

Key Highlights

  • A physical market transaction is one in which a security is purchased, sold, and settled or delivered right away.

  • Contracts purchased or sold on the spot market take effect right away.

  • Due to the rapid exchange of funds, a physical market differs from a futures market.

  • It enables the instant transfer of securities ownership

Let’s begin with the spot market definition. A Spot Market is a financial market where securities like stocks, commodities, and currencies are exchanged for immediate delivery. Delivery is the exchange of an asset for cash. In a spot market, a settlement normally happens in T+2 working days. So, delivery of cash and commodities must be done after two working days of the trade date. A spot market can work either through an exchange or over-the-counter (OTC). Spot markets can operate wherever the infrastructure exists to facilitate the transaction. The spot market is also known as the cash or physical market because cash payments are processed immediately, and there is a physical exchange of assets.

Assets Traded on Spot Markets

Equity, fixed-income securities like bonds or treasury bills, and currency are the financial products traded in spot markets. commodities also dominate spot markets. The trade of energy, metals, food, cattle, and other commodities is quite common. Apart from non-perishable commodities, you can also trade in perishable products like food grains.

The settlement of shares, currencies, and commodities on spot markets happens instantly. The spot rate is the stated rate for a quick settlement. It is often known as the spot price of an asset. The spot rate is the existing market price of an asset. The amount that buyers are willing to pay and the amount that sellers are ready to take for the security together determine the spot rate. The demand and supply of an asset determine the spot pricing. But other elements, such as prospects for the future, can also affect the spot rate of assets.

Foreign currency spot contracts are the most popular spot trades. They are normally delivered in two business days (T+2), The settlement of several financial instruments happens the next business day. With daily transactions of more than $5 million, the forex market is the biggest in the world. It is also known as "spot foreign exchange markets”. Interest rates and commodities markets are quite smaller in comparison.

A financial instrument's spot price is the price at which you can purchase or sell it. It is generated after the traders place their buy and sell orders. New orders that enter the marketplace are instantly filled. Therefore, the spot prices always keep fluctuating in the liquid markets. The majority of other interest-rate instruments, like bonds and options, are also exchanged the next day. Interest rate swaps often have a short-term leg for the spot date.

Let's now take a look at an example to understand how spot transactions are settled. Let's say a trader wants to buy gold. Finding a physical or online dealer who sells gold bars, coins, or ingots is their first step. He can search for the top online bullion dealers. All the trader needs to do is pay the dealer the bullion's current spot market price. After that, the dealer will make the physical delivery of gold. This shall mark the end of this transaction.

There are two types of spot market. They include market exchanges and over-the-counter.

1. Over the Counter: A meeting place for buyers and sellers to conduct bilateral trades. There is no central exchange or a third party to oversee and supervise a transaction.

2. Market Exchanges: Places where buyers and sellers meet to offer and bid on various financial instruments and commodities. The trading happens on an electronic trading platform or a trading floor.

Spot markets, such as foreign currency markets, are open markets. However, not all spot trading takes place on centralised exchanges as marketplaces. Over-the-counter (OTC) spot trading is a type of spot transaction that takes place directly between buyers and sellers. As opposed to other markets, OTC trading is decentralised. The following are the key differences between exchange and OTC markets.

  1. In Over-the-counter trading, securities are exchanged without adhering to any official responsibilities, This is the main difference between OTC and exchange trading. Exchange is a market for trading commodities that uses a centralised system to ensure fair trading.

  2. OTC trading takes place with the help of an intermediary called a dealer. However, an exchange is a formal network where traders abide by several regulations and standards.

Here’s a table summing up the differences between the exchange market and over-the-counter.

Feature Exchange OTC
Medium to low
Counterparty risk
Retail and institutional investors
Institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals

Here are a few of the benefits.

  1. Due to their ability to trade in smaller amounts, the spot market is more flexible.

  2. The spot market moves quickly, and deliveries often take only two days.

  3. It is pretty easy to trade in a spot market.

  4. With a swift transfer of money and ownership, the physical market enables faster trades.

  5. Due to its flexibility and simplicity, the spot market is a good option for new traders.

The following are some drawbacks of the spot market.

  1. Spot markets may leave you with assets that are difficult to hold, depending on what you're dealing with. The best example would probably be commodities. You can still have exposure to these assets by trading futures derivatives, but you must settle in cash.

  2. Stability is important for particular types of assets and businesses. For instance, a business may want to operate in an overseas market. It would need foreign currency for this. Planning the expenses and earnings will be extremely difficult if they depend only on the spot market.

  3. Spot trading offers substantially lower gains than futures or margin trading.

  4. The physical delivery of goods must be done on the spot. Hence, the spot market does not offer flexible timing.

  5. Counterparty default risk has an impact on the interest rate spot market.


Trading in spot markets is one of the most popular ways for traders, especially beginners. In the spot market, traders have to make immediate deliveries of assets. The settlement usually occurs in two working days. The spot market plays a very important role in the world of share market. It offers faster trading and flexibility to traders. It is quite simple to trade in the spot market. However, it has some disadvantages also. Traders must make physical deliveries. Moreover, there are counterparty risks and limitations in certain business scenarios. So, you must properly understand the spot market before you start trading in the spot market. You can open up a world of possibilities as it is a major space in the financial landscape.

FAQs on What is Spot Market

The spot price is the current market price at which an asset can be bought or sold for immediate delivery. It is determined by the supply and demand of a stock.

In the spot market, assets and cash are immediately exchanged. However, the futures market involves contracts for future delivery and settlement at a predetermined price.

The major participants of the spot market include individuals, corporations, financial and institutions. Governments also participate in the spot market, which buy and sell assets for investment or hedging.

Yes, traders can profit from price movements. They can buy at low prices and sell at high prices (long). Conversely, one can sell at high prices and buy at low prices(short).

The spot market plays a vital role in determining fair market prices as transactions occur in real-time.

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