Contracts for difference are a financial agreement between two parties that are in the midst of purchasing and selling an asset. A contract for difference is agreed upon between two parties; the parties in the agreement are appropriately labeled as “buyers” and “sellers”. In a contract for difference, the two parties agree that the seller will pay the buyer the difference between the current value of the asset in question over a specific time frame that the contract stipulates.
In essence, contracts for difference are financial derivatives that enable investors to take advantage of price fluctuations typically found in assets such as stocks. If stock prices are moving up or trending downwards, the underlying financial instruments associated with the fluctuations, under a contract for difference, enables the two parties to agree on the difference of valuation for the stocks of the financial instruments over a specified period of time.
As a result of its function, a contract for difference allows an investor to speculate the overall movement of the market, and more specifically the price fluctuations of the underlying investments offered in the contract. If the difference in price of the underlying asset is negative, the buyer will instead pay the seller.
When a contract for difference is applied to an equity, for example, the contract enables the investor to speculate on the price of the stock and the movements associated without actually owning shares in the equity.