One feature of futures trading is the ability to conduct transactions at almost any time of day. Commodity and futures markets are closed on weekends, but most futures contracts start trading on Sunday afternoon to start the week. Futures cover a wide range of asset classes, from agricultural commodities to energy products to stocks, and different commodities or financial products will keep different trading hours.
General Futures Trading Hours
Each type of futures -- agricultural, energy, interest rate, equity and so forth -- has it own trading hours, sometimes determined by the market hours of the underlying products or securities. The majority of futures contracts start trading Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern time and close on Friday afternoon between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Eastern, depending on the commodity. Trading will stop for 30 to 60 minutes each day at the end of the business day. During this time, contract values are marked to market and traders free up their profits for the day or make any required margin deposits.
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Equity futures are futures contracts that track stock market indexes. Popular equity futures are the e-mini S&P 500 contract, the $5, $10 and $25 Dow contracts and the Nasdaq 100 futures contracts. In total there are about 40 different futures contracts tracking U.S. and international stock market indexes. Equity futures start trading on Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern time and close at 4:15 p.m. Eastern on Friday. During the week, equity futures stop trading each afternoon from 4:15 to 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
Energy and Metals Futures
Energy futures include contracts on crude oil, natural gas, gasoline and heating oil. The contracts are for delivery of several types of crude, but the most widely followed is the Light Sweet Crude West Texas Intermediate crude oil contract. Metals futures trade on the values of gold, silver, copper, steel, palladium and platinum. Trading starts at 6 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday and closes at 5:15 p.m. on Friday. Energy futures stop trading from 5:15 until 6 p.m. each day. Ethanol futures are considered energy futures, but the contracts trade on a schedule similar to agricultural products.
Agriculture futures trade on a wide range of commodities, from cheese, butter and milk to feeder cattle and pork bellies to grains like corn, wheat and soybeans. General trading hours are 6 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday until 4 p.m. on Friday with a daily break from 4 to 5 p.m. Some of the agricultural commodities such as feeder cattle and pork bellies start early trading at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday. Many grains trade only from 8:15 until 10:30 in the morning Eastern time.