In this article, we’ll cover the essentials of spread betting, including strategies, tips and an example of a spread bet in the UK. This article should guide you towards understanding if spread betting is a suitable trading method for you. Watch the video below to get started.
Spread betting is a tax-efficient* way of speculating on the price movement of thousands of global financial instruments, including forex, stock indices, cryptocurrencies, commodities, shares and treasuries. Spread betting is one of the most common ways to trade on price movements over several asset classes in the UK and Ireland. Spread betters can trade in both directions (‘buy’ or ‘sell’), and can make use of financial leverage to increase their trade exposure.
With spread betting trading in the UK, you don't buy or sell the underlying instrument (for example a physical share or commodity). Instead, you place a spread bet based on whether you expect the price of an instrument to go up or down. If you expect the value of a share or commodity to rise, you would open a long position (buy). Conversely, if you expect the share or commodity to fall in value, you would take a short position (sell). You will make a profit or loss based on whether or not the market moves in your chosen direction.
With spread betting, you buy or sell a pre-determined amount per point of movement for the instrument you are trading, such as £5 per point. This is known as your spread bet 'stake' size. This means that for every point that the price of the instrument moves in your favour, you will gain multiples of your stake times the number of points by which the instrument price has moved in your favour. On the other hand, you will lose multiples of your stake for every point the price moves against you. Please note that with spread betting, losses are based on the full value of the position. See our spread betting examples for more on how to spread bet.
The difference between the buy price and sell price is referred to as the spread. As one of the leading providers of spread betting in the UK, we offer consistently competitive spreads. See our range of markets page for more information about our spreads.
Spread betting is a leveraged product, which means you only need to deposit a small percentage of the full value of the spread bet in order to open a position (also called 'trading on margin'). While margined (or leveraged) trading allows you to magnify your returns, losses will also be magnified as they are based on the full value of the position.
Many investors choose to spread bet on the financial markets as there are advantages of spreading betting over buying physical shares:
Remember, before placing your trade; make sure you have followed risk-management guidelines as part of your strategy.
A spread-betting strategy is a pre-determined plan that helps you to define your market entry and exit points, and accompanying risk-management conditions such as stop-losses. When utilising a trading plan as part of your wider trading strategy, you aim to create a process in which you can monitor and forecast trade outcomes.
When trading with a spread betting account, it’s best practice to outline and follow your own trading strategy template relative to your needs. Strategy templates define a set of rules you should follow for every trade, helping you to remove emotions and irrational responses from your trading strategy. This helps to keep consistency within your trades, and can help improve your trading mindset. Visit our article on creating a trading strategy template, where you can follow an example to help define your strategy
Every trader utilises different methods and strategies to suit their trading style. There are, however, some common spread betting tips a trader can utilise in order to maximise their trading potential:
See our spread betting tips and strategies article, where we cover the topic in more depth.
It's a good idea to keep up to date with current affairs and news because real-world events often influence market prices. As an example, let's look at the UK government’s help to buy housing scheme.
Many believed that this scheme would boost UK home builders' profitability. Let's say you agreed and decided to place a buy spread bet on Barratt Developments at £10 per point just before the market closed.
Let's say that Barratt Developments was trading at 255 / 256 (where 255 is the sell price and 256 is the buy price). In this example the spread is 1.
Let's assume that you opened a long position at £10per point because you thought the price of Barratt Developments would go up. For every point that Barratts' share price moved up or down, you would have netted a profit or loss multiplied by your stake amount.
Let's say your spread betting prediction was correct and Barratt Developments' shares then rose to 346 / 347. You decide to close your buy bet by selling at 346 (the current sell price).
The price has moved 90 points (346sell price – 256 initial buy price) in your favour. Multiply this by your stake of £10 to calculate your profit, which is £900.
Unfortunately, your spread betting prediction was wrong and the price of Barratt Developments' shares dropped over the next month to 206 / 207. You feel that the price is likely to continue dropping, so to limit your losses you decide to sell at 206 (the current sell price) to close the bet.
The price has moved 50 points (256 – 206) against you. Multiply this by your stake of £10 to calculate your loss, which is £500.
See our detailed spread betting examples.
Losses above are based on the full value of the position. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
^Prices are taken from our platform. Our prices may not be identical to prices for similar financial instruments in the underlying market.
*Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and can change or may differ in a jurisdiction other than the UK.
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