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What is a Commodity Swap?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A commodity swap is an investment strategy in which a floating price is swapped or exchanged for a fixed price within a specified period of time. Typically, the cash flows derived from this approach are based on the price of the underlying commodity and remain so for the duration of the swap. While any commodity can be utilized to create this type of arrangement, oil is one of the more common commodities with which this particular strategy is effective.

With a commodity swap, the buyer or user of the commodity will often secure what is known as a maximum price for a specified quantity of that commodity. This approach makes it possible to lock in a good price for a specific time frame, as well as make it easier to budget payments to the seller. At the same time, the buyer is able to receive payments on the commodity that are based on the market price. Assuming the market price increases above the fixed price paid to the producer, the buyer can earn a significant return from the venture.

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The seller or producer also benefits from this type of arrangement. By agreeing to a maximum price that is based on the current market price, the producer is able to earn a return now rather than later, even if market conditions change and the demand for that produce should decline at a later date. This is accomplished by securing a fixed price from the buyer. To an extent, both parties are hedging on the transaction, with each assuming that the demand for the commodity will at least remain constant, or possibly increase and lead to an upward movement on the market price.

With commodities that remain in demand fairly consistently, using a commodity swap often means that both parties stand to benefit from the arrangement. Assuming there are no apparent trends toward decreasing demand, and no foreseeable events that are likely to occur for the duration of the swap that would cause the commodity to suddenly drop in value, the chance for both parties to earn a profit is high. For this reason, the use of a commodity swap is fairly common.

As with any type of investment activity, care should be taken to look closely at all aspects of the commodity swap before actually making a commitment. This means assessing the current market price, determining the maximum price that the buyer is willing to commit to, and the degree of risk or volatility that is common with that type of commodity. Should the buyer feel that the swap is highly likely to result in earning the desired amount of return, and all the terms are agreeable, there is a good chance that the deal will proceed.

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