What Is A Tick In Futures Trading?

What Is A Tick In Futures Trading?

In the world of futures trading, it is crucial to have a firm grasp of the terminology and mechanisms that drive this complex market. Among the key concepts that every trader must understand is the notion of a tick. A tick serves as the minimum increment by which the price of a futures contract can change, representing the smallest possible movement in its value. This short article aims to provide a concise explanation of what a tick is in futures trading, shedding light on its significance and potential impact on a trader’s positions.

What Is a Tick in Futures Trading?

Definition of a Tick

In futures trading, a tick refers to the smallest increment or movement in the price of a futures contract. It represents the minimum price movement that a particular futures contract can make. Each tick corresponds to a specific value, known as the tick value, which determines the monetary worth of each tick movement. Understanding ticks is crucial for traders as they play a significant role in determining profits and losses in futures trading.

Tick Size and Tick Value

Tick size refers to the minimum price increment that a futures contract can move. It varies across different futures contracts and is determined by the exchange on which the contract is traded. For example, a tick size of 0.25 points means that the price can move in increments of 0.25 points.

The tick value, on the other hand, represents the monetary worth of each tick movement. It is calculated by multiplying the tick size by the contract multiplier. The contract multiplier is a predetermined value established by the exchange and varies depending on the futures contract. For example, if the tick size is 0.25 points and the contract multiplier is $50, then each tick movement is worth $12.50 ($50 * 0.25).

Tick Movement

Tick movement refers to the change in the price of a futures contract as it moves from one tick level to another. It can be an upward or downward movement, depending on whether the price is increasing or decreasing. Traders closely monitor tick movements to identify trends, patterns, and potential trading opportunities. Analyzing tick movements helps traders make informed decisions about entering or exiting positions and managing risk.

Example of Tick Calculation

Let’s consider a hypothetical example to better understand tick calculation. Suppose you are trading a crude oil futures contract with a tick size of $0.01 and a contract multiplier of 1,000 barrels. If the price of the contract increases from $70.00 to $70.01, it has moved up by one tick. In this case, the tick value would be $10 ($0.01 * 1,000 barrels).

Importance of Understanding Ticks

Understanding ticks is essential for traders as they directly impact profitability. Being aware of the tick size and value helps traders calculate potential profits and losses for each tick movement. Additionally, ticks provide valuable information about market liquidity and volatility. By analyzing tick movements, traders can gauge market sentiment and make informed decisions based on the price action of a futures contract.

Types of Futures Contracts

Ticks can vary across different futures contracts based on the underlying asset being traded. Common types of futures contracts include commodities (such as oil, gold, or wheat), stock indices, currencies, interest rates, and more. Each type of futures contract has its own tick size and value, which are determined by the specific characteristics and trading dynamics of the underlying asset.

Tick in Different Markets

Ticks are not limited to just one market or exchange. They are prevalent across various futures markets, including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), and many others. Each exchange sets its own tick size and value for the futures contracts it offers, which can differ even within the same asset class. Traders need to be aware of these variations when trading different markets.

Impact of Ticks on Trading Strategies

Ticks play a critical role in the development and execution of trading strategies in futures markets. Traders incorporate tick data analysis into their strategies to identify patterns, trends, and potential entry or exit points. Understanding ticks helps traders set appropriate profit targets, stop-loss levels, and risk management parameters. Additionally, tick movements can be used to assess market liquidity and adapt trading strategies accordingly.

Tick Data and Analysis

Tick data provides a detailed record of every tick movement in a futures contract and is a valuable resource for traders. It allows for in-depth analysis of price movements, volume, and market activity. Traders can use tick data to backtest their strategies, identify correlations, and generate insights that can enhance their trading performance. Various software platforms and data providers offer tick data services, enabling traders to access and analyze this data effectively.


In conclusion, a tick in futures trading represents the smallest price movement of a futures contract. It is determined by the tick size and represents the monetary value of each tick movement. Understanding ticks is crucial for traders as they play a significant role in determining profitability and managing risk. By closely monitoring tick movements, analyzing tick data, and staying aware of the tick sizes and values of different futures contracts, traders can make informed decisions and improve their trading strategies in the dynamic world of futures trading.