E-minis are electronically traded futures contracts that represent a faction of the value of a corresponding standard futures contract. Because e-minis offer round-the-clock trading, low margin rates, volatility and liquidity, they are ideal trading instruments for active traders.
The first e-mini contract – the e-mini S&P 500 – was introduced by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) on September 9, 1997. The value of the full-sized S&P 500 contract had become too large for most small traders, so the e-mini was created to make futures trading accessible to more traders. It quickly became a success, and today there are e-mini contracts that cover a variety of indexes, commodities and currencies. The e-mini S&P 500, however, remains the most actively traded e-mini contract in the world.
This guide introduces e-mini futures contracts and covers e-mini characteristics, popular contracts and contract specifications, plus important e-mini concepts like margin, leverage, volume and volatility.
A daily chart of the e-mini S&P 500 (ES) stock index futures contract. Image created with TradeStation.