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CFDs: Going long vs shorting the market

This guide will help you understand the concept of going long vs going short with Contract for Differences (CFD).

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Contracts for difference are popular products when the market is crashing or there’s high volatility because traders can still profit if prices fall.

Taking the long or short option is betting on the values moving up or down. The difference in the long and short option is the potential loss or profit made on the trades. Read on to find out more.

Traders can bet on the price movements of:

  • Indices (e.g. NZX50)
  • Individual stocks
  • Commodities (e..g. gold or oil)
  • Currencies (Forex)
  • Cryptocurrency

Disclaimer: Trading in financial instruments carries various risks, and you can lose more than your capital. This article may contain general advice. You should always seek professional advice when deciding if a product is right for you.

What is a contract for difference?

A contract for difference (CFD) is a particular form of contract between you (payer) and your broker (seller) based on the price of a particular asset. When the contract is signed, this price is called the “entry price”, whereas at the end of the contract, it’s called the “exit price”.

See also: A guide to CFD trading in New Zealand

If the exit price of a particular asset is higher than the entry price, the seller has to pay the difference to the buyer: This is called the ‘long position’.

If the exit price is lower, the buyer has to pay the difference to the seller: This is called the ‘short position’. That’s why it’s called a ‘contract for difference’. It’s based on the prices and the buyer does not have any right over the asset.

Examples of assets can be shares indexes, shares and commodities such as gold or oil.

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CFDs are normally purchased on a margin basis: Every financial derivative has its own percentage. The margin can be identified as a deposit for the purchase of a particular asset. If you buy 100 shares at $5 each and the margin is 5%, you will pay $5 x 100 x 5% which equals $25. There’s also the opportunity to take advantage of leverage. If you use a leverage of 100:1, your investment would be $5 x 100 x100 x 5% = $2,500.

Taking the long position

The long position means the trader expects the value of the security or asset in question to increase.

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Long vs short

For example, stock XYZ trades at $5 and an increase is expected. If the investment is $5,000 and the initial margin is 5%, that means you can purchase 25,000 shares (calculated as follows: 5,000/5 = 1,000 shares divided per 5% = 25,000). Let’s assume that in two weeks the stock increases to $5.10 at the time of sale: The 5% is covered and the stock has appreciated. The profit is equal to the differential between the entry and exit price: ($6,375 – $5,000) = $1,375.

Please keep in mind that this is gross profit and that you have to subtract the cost of the trade being open for two weeks and also the trading commissions due. At the end of this calculation, you get the net profit from the long position.

The short position when prices fall

When the short position is discussed, the trader expects the value of the security, index, commodity or currency in question to decrease. An example is if the XYZ stock trades at $5 and a decrease is expected.

If the investment is $5,000 of funding and the margin is initially 5%, to gain a profit you need to sell the shares and then re-buy later on. You will sell 25,000 shares.

Let’s assume that the stock decreases to $4.75 in a couple of weeks, the 5% is covered and the stock has depreciated. This time you get $6,250 of profit. As mentioned in the previous case, this is gross profit.

This time, you need to add the amount of interest received for the two weeks when the position is open. The net profit is calculated as follows: Gross profit plus interests, minus the trading commission.

What’s the difference?

The difference between the long and short positions lies essentially in the interest rate that has to be subtracted from the gross profit in the case of the long position and added in the case of the short position.

Here you can see an example of how the long and short positions work:

Long OptionShort Option
Interest Rate5%5%
Commission Rate0.1%0.1%
Value (present)$150,000$150,000
Fee CFD Position (open)$150$150
Future Value$160,000$140,000
Fee CFD Position (closed)$160$140
Profit – gross$10,000$10,000
Minus fees$310$290
Interest subtracted (long)$257
Interest added (short)$235
Profit – net$9,433$9,945

In this particular case, you could make a higher profit from the short position because of the ‘interest’ factor.

Let’s assume that in both cases you get a loss. In the long position, you have to add the interest, while in the short position you need to subtract the interest. In such cases, going long minimises the loss, whereas going short increases the loss.

Using leverage could also boost your profits as much as your losses: It would be better to limit this financial tool if you are a newbie.

As always, it is essential to think about the risks involved

Compare CFD share trading platforms

Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Minimum Opening Deposit Commission Available Markets Platforms
Plus500 CFD
NZ 200
No commission
Indices, FX, Shares, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, ETFs, Options
Plus500 WebTrader
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade CFDs on shares, forex, crypto, indices, commodities and more.
CMC Markets CFD
0.10% with a NZ$ 7 minimum
Indices, FX, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, Treasuries, ASX shares, Global shares
MetaTrader 4,CMC Next Generation
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade CFDs on shares, forex, cryptocurrency, indices, commodities and more.
BlackBull Markets CFD
USD 200
No commission
Indices, FX, Commodities, Precious metals
MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade CFDs on shares, forex, indices, commodities, precious metals and more.
IG Markets CFDs
0.08% with $7 minimum
Indices, FX, Shares, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, Options, ETPs
MetaTrader 4, ProRealTime
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade from over 17,000 markets with a leading service for CFD trading and forex.

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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