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CFD Indices: Overview, How It Works and How To Trade


CFD Indices: Overview, How It Works and How To Trade

CFD Indices: Overview, How It Works and How To Trade

Vantage By Riley Updated Updated Thu, 2022 April 21 04:05

Contract for difference (CFD) Indices trading allows traders to speculate on the overall performance of industries or financial markets. An index can track a specific industry and area of economy, specific stock market, or even an entire market. Indices allow traders to gain exposure to the performance of groups of assets or entire markets [1].

Indices have different methods for weighing their constituents (e.g. price-weighted and market-cap weighted indices) and calculating their value. An index usually has a base year and a base value that is calculated based on the value of the underlying asset.

A change in the index’s value is often of greater importance than the actual value, as it indicates the performance of the market.

Key Points

  • CFD indices trading allows speculation on market performance without owning the underlying assets.
  • Three main methods are used to calculate index values, influencing market interpretation.
  • Traders need to understand the risks, including high volatility and potential losses, and use effective strategies to manage them.

What are CFD Indices?

Contract for Differences (CFDs) Indices are financial instruments. They allow traders to speculate on the price movements of stock market indices without owning the actual underlying assets. Trading CFD indices provides traders the flexibility to operate in both bull (going long) and bear (going short) markets. This offers opportunities for potential returns, regardless of the market direction.

As a financial instrument, CFD indices make engagement with the broader stock market more streamlined. Additionally, CFDs give traders a unique opportunity to access indices. Typically, indices are not directly tradable except through these derivatives or exchange traded funds (ETFs). This flexibility, combined with the potential for leveraging positions, makes CFD indices a popular choice. 

How are Indices Calculated?

Indices are calculated using various methods to provide a comprehensive overview of market performance. The three primary methods are the market capitalisation weighted method, the price weighted method, and the equal weighted method. Each method offers a unique perspective on the market, influencing the way traders interpret index movements.

  • The Market Capitalisation Weighted Method

This method weights companies based on their market capitalisation, giving larger companies a greater influence on the index’s performance. It reflects the total value of all shares outstanding. This makes it sensitive to the size of the companies within the index.

  • The Price Weighted Method

This method weights companies based on their stock price, not their market capitalisation. Higher-priced stocks have a greater impact on the index’s movement. This makes the index sensitive to price changes in individual stocks.

  • The Equal Weighted Method

Each company in the index is given the same weight, regardless of its size or stock price. This method ensures that each company contributes equally to the index’s performance, providing a balanced view of the market.

Popular Indices for CFD Trading

CFD trading has gained immense popularity in major markets around the world. The most popular indices include among others:

1. S&P 500 

The S&P 500 is a leading indicator of US equities, reflecting the performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States. It is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large-cap US equities and is used by investors to determine the overall market conditions. This index is market-cap weighted.

2. NASDAQ 100 (US Tech 100) 

The NASDAQ 100 includes 100 of the largest domestic and international non-financial companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. It is heavily weighted towards technology and biotech sectors, making it a popular index for investors interested in these industries. Because of its tech-heavy composition, the NASDAQ 100 is often more volatile than other indices.

3. Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) 

The DJIA, commonly known as the Dow 30, is one of the oldest and most famous stock indices in the world. It includes 30 major companies based in the US. Because the index is price-weighted, companies with higher stock prices have a greater impact on its performance. The DJIA is often used to gauge the overall health of the US economy and stock market.

4. FTSE 100 

The FTSE 100 is a UK index of the top 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) . It is calculated by weighing stocks by market capitalisation. It mainly includes the top 100 stocks with the highest market caps. The FTSE 100 is often seen as a pulse check for the health of the UK economy, featuring prominent companies like HSBC, Unilever, and BP.

Advantages of CFD Indices Trading

The flexibility and potential benefits of trading CFD indices make it an attractive option for many investors. Here are some advantages:

  • Traders’ positions are spread across several companies and industries, diversifying their investments and reducing the risk of drastic instability. 
  • Returns are determined by the overall performance of an index rather than specific stocks. Therefore, traders can potentially take advantage of the favourable performance of any of the underlying stocks on the index. 
  • Traders can “short” index CFD if their performance is declining, allowing them to still take advantage of a bearish market. 
  • Index trading could reduce the in-depth analysis required because it entails speculating upon various global market movements, rather than individual stocks. 
  • Unlike trading stocks directly, you can trade CFDs on indices throughout the day, offering more trading opportunities.

Disadvantages of CFD Indices Trading

The benefits of CFD indices trading come with certain risks that traders should be aware of:

  • Traders do not own the stocks listed within indices in which they open CFD positions.
  • Although CFD indices trading is more diversified than trading stocks, the value of an index could still undergo highly volatile changes. Traders can still lose more than their capital especially when trading with leverage. Therefore, it is important to trade CFD indices with caution.
  • Some countries such as the US have banned trading CFDs.

Effective Strategies for Trading Indices with CFDs

Here are some trading strategies for traders to utilise when trading indices CFDs:

1. Trend Following

  • Use technical indicators like moving averages to identify and follow the current market trend.
  • Enter trades in the trend’s direction to maximise potential gains while minimising the risks.
  • Apply stop-loss orders to protect against unexpected market reversals and limit potential losses.

2. Range Trading

  • Examine historical price data to identify key support and resistance levels within a trading range.
  • Buy near the support level and sell near the resistance level, leveraging predictable price movements.
  • Use tight stop-loss orders to manage risk and exit trades quickly if the price breaks out of the range.

3. News Trading

  • Stay informed about major economic news and events affecting index prices, such as earnings reports and geopolitical developments.
  • Enter trades based on anticipated market reactions to news, aiming to capitalise on short-term volatility.
  • Monitor positions closely and be prepared to exit swiftly to secure profits or cut losses as market sentiment shifts.

How to Trade Indices CFDs

1. Choose a Broker

There are many different brokers that offer CFD indices trading on various proprietary or online CFD trading platforms. Find a broker that offers all the right instruments for CFD indices trading.

Important factors to consider while choosing a CFD broker:

  • Leverage rates – Check and compare various margin trading conditions. A lower margin typically means the index requires a lower initial investment to trade.
  • Spreads – Brokers usually gain from the spreads they offer to traders. A lower spread means traders need to make potentially less profit to cover the overall trade cost.
  • Reputation – When dealing with indices trading it is important to consider the reputation of your broker, given that CFD trading is not properly regulated in some countries. Check whether the broker and their platform are regulated.
  • Customer support – The inability to access your funds or make decisions on your position owing to errors with the trading platform can be very frustrating, and not to mention painful if you incur losses. Therefore, traders should not overlook customer support – some CFD brokers even offer round-the-clock (24/7) support.
  • Fees –  CFD indices trading can have many associated fees, such as transaction fees and overnight holding charges. Be sure to compare all the costs of using different brokers and consider them against the trading strategy you want to use.
  • Deposits – Consider how accounts are funded (currencies accepted) and how many days the deposit will take to appear in your account so you don’t miss a trade.  

2. Open Your Position

Most trading platforms are fairly user-friendly, and opening or closing your position is straightforward. CFD indices trading platforms typically present options to sell (short) or buy (long) your chosen CFD index.

Going short means that the trader will take advantage of market opportunities when the index’s value falls; while going long if it rises. Most platforms offer traders detailed information about various financial instruments to help better inform their decisions. 

3. Monitor Your Position

Keep a close eye on all your positions after opening them. You may consider putting in place an automated exit strategy if possible. You can consider exiting your trading position to avoid losing money rapidly if you think it’s going to fall past a threshold you are comfortable with. You can also place stop orders (automated limits), which will automatically exit your position, once hit. 

The Bottom Line

CFD indices trading offers a flexible way for traders to speculate on market movements without owning the underlying assets. By understanding how CFD indices work, traders can employ effective strategies while navigating both rising and falling markets. 

However, it is crucial to be aware of the associated risks and to trade with caution, especially when using leverage. Interested to start trading CFD index? Open a live account with Vantage today and begin trading now!


  1. “How do index CFDs work? | Indices 101 – FlowBank.” . . Accessed 7 Apr 2022.
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