9.1 – Basics of the Index Futures

Within the Indian derivatives world, the Nifty Futures has a very special place. The ‘Nifty Futures’ is the most widely traded futures instrument, thus making it the most liquid contract in the Indian derivative markets. In fact you may be surprised to know that Nifty Futures is easily one of the top 10 index futures contracts traded in the world. Once you get comfortable with futures trading I would imagine, like many of us you too would be actively trading the Nifty Futures. For this reason, it would make sense to understand Nifty futures thoroughly. However before we proceed any further, I would request you to refresh your memory on the Index, we have discussed the same here.

I assume you are comfortable with the basic understanding of the index; therefore I will proceed to discuss the Index Futures or the Nifty Futures.

As we know the futures instrument is a derivative contract that derives its value from an underlying asset. In the context of Nifty futures, the underlying is the Index itself. Hence the Nifty Futures derives its value from the Nifty Index. This means if the value of Nifty Index goes up, then the value of Nifty futures also goes up. Likewise if the value of Nifty Index declines, so would the Index futures.

Here is the snapshot of Nifty Futures Contract –


Like any other futures contract, Nifty Futures is also available in three variants – current month, mid-month, and far month. I have highlighted the same in red for your reference. Further, I have highlighted the Nifty Futures price which at the time of taking this snapshot was Rs. 11,484.9 per unit of Nifty. The corresponding underlying value (index value in spot) was Rs. 11,470.70. Of course, there is a difference between the spot price and the futures price, which is due to the futures pricing formula. We will understand the concepts related to futures pricing in the next chapter.

Further, if you notice the lot size here is 75. We know the contract value is –

CV = Futures Price * Lot Size

= 11484.90 * 75

= Rs.861,367/-

Here are the margin requirements for trading Nifty Futures; I’ve used Zerodha Margin Calculator to get the margin values –

Order Type Margin
NRML Rs.68,810/-
MIS Rs.24,083/-
BO & CO Rs.12,902/-

These details should give you a basic overview of the Nifty Futures. One of the main features of Nifty Futures that makes it so popular is its liquidity. Let us now proceed to understand what liquidity is and how one would measure it.


9.2 – Impact Cost

Updated 24th August 2021 – As per the NSE’s definition, Impact Cost is defined as the cost that a buyer or a seller needs to bear when executing a transaction in a given security. It is a measure to gauge the market liquidity and provides a much more accurate picture of the cost traders bear when executing a trade in comparison to the bid-ask spread. It is measured separately for the buy-side & the sell-side and varies according to the size of the transaction. The Impact cost is dynamic in nature and keeps changing based on the order book. For stocks that are to be included in indices (like Nifty 50, Nifty 500), one of the criteria for eligibility is the impact cost being below a certain threshold (For more details about this, refer to the Index Methodology document).

The formula for calculating the impact cost is as follows –

Ideal Price = (Best Buy Price in Orderbook + Best Sell Price in Orderbook) / 2

Actual Buy Price = Sum of (Quantity * Execution Price) / Total Quantity

Impact Cost (for that particular quantity) = (Actual Buy Price – Ideal Price) / Ideal Price * 100

To explain this using an example, let us consider Infosys –

Let’s suppose a person wants to buy 350 quantities of Infosys. Now let us calculate the impact cost for this transaction –

Ideal Price = (1657.95+1658)/2 = 1657.975 ~ 1657.98

Actual Buy Price = (15*1658) + (335*1658.20) / 350 = 1658.19143 ~ 1658.19

Impact Cost for buying 350 shares = ((1658.19 – 1657.98) / 1657.98) * 100 = 0.012%


The few key messages that I want you to take away from this discussion are these –

  1. Impact cost gives a sense of liquidity
  2. The higher the liquidity in a stock, the lesser is the impact cost
  3. The spread between the buying and selling price is also an indicator of liquidity
    1. Higher the spread, the higher the impact cost
    2. Lower the spread, the lower is the impact cost
  4. Higher the liquidity, lesser the volatility
  5. If the stock is not liquid, placing market orders is not a great idea

9.3 – Why trading Nifty makes sense

As you know the Nifty Index is a basket of 50 stocks. These stocks are selected to represent a wide section of the India economic sectors. This makes Nifty a good representative of the broader economic activity in India. This naturally means if the general economic activity is going up or at least expected to go up then Nifty’s value also goes up, and vice versa. This also makes trading Nifty Futures a much better choice as compared to single stock futures. There are many reasons for this, here are some –

  1. It is diversified – At times taking a directional call on a single stock can be a tough task, this is mainly from the risk perceptive. For example, let us just say I decide to buy Infosys Limited with a hope that the quarterly results would be good. In case the results don’t impress the markets, then obviously the stock would take a knock and so would my P&L. Nifty futures, on the other hand, has a diversified portfolio of 50 stocks. As it is a portfolio of stocks, the movement of the Index does not really depend on a single stock. Of course, occasionally a few stocks (index heavyweights) can influence Nifty to some extent but not on an everyday basis. In other words when you trade Nifty futures you completely eliminate ‘unsystematic risk’ and deal with only with ‘systematic risk’. I know these are new jargons being introduced here, we will discuss these terms in more detail at a later stage when we talk about hedging.
  2. Hard to manipulate – The movement in Nifty is a response to the collective movement in the top 50 companies in India (by market capitalization). Hence there is virtually no scope to manipulate the Nifty index. However the same cannot be said about individual stocks (remember Satyam, DHCL, Bhushan Steel etc)
  3. Highly Liquid (easy fills, less slippage) – We discussed liquidity earlier in the chapter. Since the Nifty is so highly liquid you can literally transact any quantity of Nifty without worrying about losing money on the impact cost. Besides, there is so much liquidity that you can literally transact any number of contracts that you wish.
  4. Lesser margins – Nifty futures require much lesser margins as compared to individual stock futures. To give you a perspective Nifty’s margin requirement varies between 12-15%, however individual stock margins can go as high as 45-60%.
  5. Broader economic call – Trading the Nifty futures requires one to take a broad-based economic call rather than company specify directional calls. From my experience, doing the former is much easier than the latter.
  6. Application of Technical Analysis – Technical Analysis works best on liquid instruments. Liquid stocks are hard to manipulate, hence they usually move based on the demand-supply dynamics of the market, which obviously is what a TA mainly relies on
  7. Less volatile – Nifty futures are less volatile compared to individual stock futures. To give you perspective the Nifty futures has an annualized volatility of around 16-17%, whereas individual stocks like say Infosys has annualized volatility of upwards of 30%.

Key takeaways from this chapter

  1. Nifty Futures derives its value based on the Nifty Index in spot, which is its underlying
  2. At present, the Nifty futures lot size is 75
  3. The Nifty futures is the most liquid futures contract in India
  4. Just like other future contracts, Nifty Futures contracts are also available with three different expiry options (Current month, Mid Month, and Far Month)
  5. A round trip trade is an arbitrary quick instantaneous trade which involves buying at the best available sell price and selling at the best available buy price
  6. A round trip trade always results in a loss
  7. Impact cost measures the loss of a round trip as a % of average of bid and ask
  8. Higher the impact cost, lesser the liquidity and vice versa
  9. When you place a market order to transact, you may lose some money owing to impact cost
  10. Nifty has an impact cost close to 0.0082%, which makes it the most liquid contract to trade


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  1. amit pathak says:

    I read in todays newspaper that yesterday’s index rally was based on short covering. As far as i know you cannot carry shorts in the cash market overnight. it meant all those people who are short on the market in F&O squaring off their positions FnO is just an instrument that derives its price from EQ, I am wondering how FnO drives the market and not its underlying(EQ)?

    • Karthik Rangappa says:

      It is true that the spot market drives the derivatives market… but at time for brief periods the other way round can happen as well!

      • amit pathak says:

        pls explain the reason and method how F & O drives the underlying index.

      • amit pathak says:

        Hi karthik,
        sorry for bothering you again on this concept.I am having difficulty in understanding the concept.Suppose there is short built up in nifty futures.Market participants who are short in nifty futures realise that bearish outloook is no longer visible .So they square off their short positions in nifty futures.which moves nifty futures in upward direction.Here all the activity is taking place in nifty futures.So how it leads to rally in underlying cash market based nifty index.Is it sentiment?Pls guide.

        • Karthik Rangappa says:

          Yes, sometime and for a short duration the derivatives market can influence the spot. However it cannot be sustained. Such situations are called short covering or the long unwinding.

          • Naresh says:

            How do you infer at EOD by looking at futures data whether (a) there is short build up or (b) short covering or (c) long buildup or (d) long unwinding ? Thanks

          • Karthik Rangappa says:

            There is no hard a fast rule for this, but generally…

            1) Price increase after few successive sessions of down trend is considered short covering
            2) Price decrease after few successive sessions of up trend is considered profit booking or long unwinding

  2. madhu nair says:

    hi kartik, is it prudent to attend a training on TA. if yes, can you suggest a place.

    • Karthik Rangappa says:

      Please don’t spend money on it because there are no good courses available in India. Most of it is waste. You have all things needed in Varsity’s TA module. Go through it in detail, if you have questions post them here, we will be more than happy to give you a quick response and help you tru it.

  3. jagadeesh says:

    Hi Karthik,
    I have recently started trading futures and i found these modules very impressive. I appreciate your effort in writing these again.
    Thanks alot.. 🙂

  4. Vasantharam says:

    Kindly clarify:If i am placing the limit order, it’s not necessary to look after the impact cost. Can I choose any NSE50 future contract? Whether All the NSE 50 are liquidity in case of F&O?

  5. T RAMA DEVI says:

    Dear Sir, When will be the next chapter is uploaded and when all chapters on Futures are schedule to finish.

    • Karthik Rangappa says:

      I guess futures module will be completed by this week. Looking forward to Options module from next week on wards. Please stay tuned for more. Thanks.

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