Calculating Fair Value


Fair value is the theoretical assumption of where a futures contract should be priced given such things as the current index level, index dividends, days to expiration and interest rates. The actual futures price will not necessarily trade at the theoretical price, as short-term supply and demand will cause price to fluctuate around fair value. Price discrepancies above or below fair value should cause arbitrageurs to return the market closer to its fair value.

The following formula is used to calculate fair value for stock index futures:
= cash [1+r (x/360)] - Dividends

This example shows how to calculate fair value for S&P 500 futures:

Sept S&P 500 futures price

1157.00 pts

S&P 500 cash index

1146.00 pts

Interest rate


Dividends to expiration of futures

3.47 pts

(converted to S&P points)


Days to expiration of the futures contract

78 days

Fair Value of futures =

Cash [1+r (x/360)] - Dividends


= 1146 [1+.057 (78/360)] - 3.47



Amount of futures overpricing =

1157.00 - 1156.68


.32 pts

Dividend Yield Calculation


S&P 500 dividend yield =


Conversion to S&P points =

1146.00 x .0140


= 16 pts per year (78/360)


Please note: For further information on Fair Value, go to the Fair Value FAQ

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