Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cheap Thrills: Financial Spread Betting

Traditionally, trading in foreign exchange or in stocks and shares comes with a high bar to entry. Dealing with fees, commissions and taxes have historically put such markets out of reach of the average man or woman in the street. It is refreshing, therefore, to see Financial Spread Betting (FSB) opening these close markets up to low-budget, cost-conscious individuals.

In an ideal world, our financial portfolio will entail a budget for entertainment. If it also has something set aside for high-risk investment, FSB provides the means to hybridize the two. If you have a pocket of cash set aside for a recreational purpose, FSB is worth investigating.

FSB delivers precisely what it sounds like. Nothing is bought and sold; instead we are invited to bet on the movement of stocks and shares or currency movements. If they move in the direction we have predicted, the bet pays out; the more the stock moves, the more the bet pays. The downside to this is that the provider stakes a range that the stock has to move before we start to win and, potentially more seriously, losses are worked out on the same basis as wins. In other words, if we've called it wrong and the market goes against our bet, the more wrong we are, the more we lose.

Naturally, this equation calls for some insight into the stock or currency being bet on. It also points to the logic in treating FSB as a form of paying play, rather than an out-and-out investment vehicle. Some people do use FSB as a full-time trading vehicle, but these are very much the exception rather than the rule.

Accessed via either a browser of a desktop app, FSB has the great merit of being available 24/7 as thousands of different worldwide markets exist to trade on. There is a danger that one might be tempted to playing in an area about which we know very little. Once again, the rational approach is to deal solely in areas about which we have some actual knowledge.

There are free demonstration applications available on sites such as Tradefair which offer a perfect way to acquaint oneself with what is an undeniably fascinating medium. The desktop delivers a highly sophisticated dealing screen, complete with a range of charting and analytical tools. Watching prices shift moment by moment and seeing your account balance move correspondingly is a thrill in itself.

 by AndreasPoike

Even without actual cash at stake, making decisions based on the trending of a particular stock or commodity is an intense, nerve-wrenching business. FSB is undeniably the closest that any of us are likely to get to trading on Wall Street, but if there is an area in which you enjoy some measure of insight, FSB offers the means to capitalize on that.

More involved and more scientific than sports betting, but too short term in nature to be considered anything other than a speculative investment vehicle, FSB occupies a middle ground on the financial map; part fun, part investment. It is, admittedly, an unusual hybrid. But for all that, it is something well worth taking a look at. If only because it offers a taste of what being a high roller might be like.