Even if not actively traded, the equity forward contract is fundamental to arbitrage pricing, risk-neutral pricing, and derivative pricing. We need to get very familiar with the math, which is not complicated but many people aren’t proficient.

At every turn on my option pricing learning journey, we encounter our friend the fwd contract. Its many simple properties are not always intuitive. (See P 110 [[Hull]])

* a fwd **contract **(like a call **contract**) has a contractual strike and a contractual maturity date.Upon maturity, the contract’s value is frozen and stops “floating”. The PnL gets realized and the 2 counter-parties settle.

* a fwd contract’s terminal value is stipulated (ST – K), positive or negative. This is a function of ST, i.e. terminal value of underlier. There’s even a “range of possibilities” graph, in the same spirit of the call/put’s hockey sticks.

* (like a call contract) an existing fwd contract’s pre-maturity MTM value reacts to 1) passage of time and 2) current underlier price. This is another curve but the horizontal axis is ** current **underlier price not terminal underlier price. I call it a “now-if” graph, not a “range of possibilities” graph. The curve depicts

pre-maturity contract price denoted F(St, t) = St – K exp(-r (T-t) ) ……… [1]

pre-maturity contract price denoted F(St, t) = St exp(-q(T-t)) -K exp(-r(T-t)) .. [1b] continuous div

This formula [1b] is not some theorem but a direct result of the simplest replication. Major Assumption — a constant IR r.

Removing the assumption, we get a more general formula

F(St, t) = St exp(-q(T-t)) – K Zt

where Zt is today’s price of a $1 notional zero-bond with maturity T.

Now I feel replication is at the heart of ** everything fwd**. You could try but won’t get comfortable with the many essential results [2] unless you internalize the replication.

[2] PCP, fwd price, Black model, BS formula …

Notice [1] is a function of 2 independent variables (cf call). When (T – now) becomes 0, this formula degenerates to (ST – K). In other words, as we approach maturity, the now-if graph morphs into the “range of possibilities” graph.

The now-if graph is a straight line at 45-degrees, crossing the x-axis at K*exp(-r (T-t) )

Since Ft is a multivariate function of t and St , this thing has delta, theta —

delta = 1.0, just like the stock itself

theta = – r K exp(-r (T-t) ) …… negative!

To internalize [1b], recall that a “bundle” of something like 0.98 shares now (at time t) continuously generates dividend converting to additional shares, so the 0.98 shares grows exponentially to 1.0 share at T. So the bundle’s value grows from 0.98St to ST , while the bond holding grows from K*Zt to K. Bundle + bond replicates the fwd contract.

—————Ft / St is usually (above or below) close to 0 when K is close to S. For example if K = $100 and stock is trading $102, then the fwd contract would be cheap with a positive (or negative) value.

** most fwd contracts are constructed with very low initial value.

* note the exp() is applied on the K. When is it applied on the S? [1]

* compare 2 fwd contracts of different strikes?

* fwd contract’s value has delta = 1

[1] A few cases. ATMF options are struck at the fwd price.