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TradingIndices

Index Trading: A Beginners Guide To Understanding Indices

Zani Barrish
Financial Writer
25 Aug 2023
Trade on the movement of global stock market indices using Index CFDs with an online trading platform. Learn the basics of trading Index CFDs, and the benefits and risks involved.

What are Indices?

If you're new to trading, you might have heard the term "indices". But what are indices, and how do they work?

An index (plural: indices) is a basket of stocks or other financial instruments that represents a particular market. These can be grouped together by region (for example UK or US shares), by industry or sector (like healthcare or banks) and even by company market cap. For example, the US 500 index tracks the performance of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the US.

Another example of a popular index is the UK100 which was launched in 1984 and owned and run by the FTSE Russell Group.This index tracks the performance of the top 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange by market capitalisation.

When you invest in an index, you're essentially buying a stake in the average performance of all the stocks or instruments in that basket. So, if the companies in the index do well, your investment will increase in value.

But what about trading on indices? Trading on indices involves speculating on the price movements of the entire index, rather than individual stocks or instruments within it. This can offer traders a way to gain exposure to a broader market trend without having to buy each individual stock.

When you trade indices, you're essentially making a bet on whether the overall value of the index will rise or fall within a given time frame. This type of trading is often done using financial derivatives like Contracts for Difference (CFDs), which allow you to speculate on price movements without owning the underlying assets.

Biggest global indices

IndexCountry
S&P 500United States
NASDAQUnited States
Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)United States
Nikkei 225Japan
FTSE 100United Kingdom
DAXGermany
CAC 40France
Hang Seng IndexHong Kong
Shanghai Composite IndexChina
BSE SensexIndia

Why trade indices with us?

There are several benefits of trading Index CFDs with Pepperstone. One of the main advantages is that they allow you to diversify your portfolio without having to buy individual stocks or instruments. For example, you can reach further geographically with indices that focuses on a specific region, i.e. China (CN50 or HK50) or a trading thematic, i.e., the tech industry (TECH100). Indices are considered barometers of specific industries or types of stocks, e.g. the Russell 2000 and ‘smaller business America’ etc. So, if there’re big macroeconomic headwinds or tailwinds, they’re bound to show up in indices more so than in most other asset classes, because of this.

Indices are also beneficial to traders who seek to profit over the short-medium term from price fluctuations. It allows you to go ‘long’ or ‘short’ and trade the markets whether they are going up or down.

By trading an index, you're spreading your risk across a range of different companies or instruments thus reducing your exposure to a single stock’s volatility. Index CFDs also allow you to access more liquidity and thus open positions on larger trades with more opportunity for profit or loss.

Some of the advantages of trading indices with us include:

Spread

  • Benefit from industry-leading low spreads
  • As low as 1 point on AUS200, 0.9 on GER30 and 2.4 on US30, depends on the index traded and the time.For example: The US500 has a spread of 0.4 pips from 16:30 to 23:00.
  • The UK100 has a spread of 1 pip from 10:00-18:30. The SA40 has a spread of 8.6 pips

Leverage

  • Allows traders to control larger positions in the market with a smaller amount of capital. It magnifies both potential profits and losses, and understanding leverage is crucial for risk management. For example, a leverage ratio, such as 10:1, represents the amount of capital a trader can control compared to their invested amount. In this case, a 10:1 leverage ratio means that for every unit of capital invested, the trader can control 10 units in the market
  • Available with up to 20:1 for ASIC European and UK traders, and up to 200:1 for SCB and CMA traders. Narrower spreads (the difference between the bid and ask price) can result in lower transaction costs for traders
  • When spreads are narrower, traders can enter and exit positions with lower costs. They can buy at a slightly lower price and sell at a slightly higher price, minimising the impact of the spread on their overall profitability

Deep liquidity

  • Benefit from top tier liquidity and get all of your Indices trades filled in full, with no partial execution or requotes on market orders

More time to trade

  • Seize all opportunities with 24 hour pricing on major Indices like US30, UK100 and GER30 from Monday to Friday

Peace of mind

  • Trade confidently and securely with a regulated broker

Keep the momentum going

  • Enjoy smooth trading conditions with 99.92%* fill rate and fast execution

*Fill rates based on all trades 01-30 June 2022

Help when needed

  • Get assistance from an award-winning customer support1, available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week

Understand index trading in just 4 steps

  1. Understand how index trading works
  2. Indices markets for beginners
  3. Understand what causes price movements
  4. Which indices can I trade with Pepperstone?

1. Understand how index trading works

If you're interested in trading indices, you can achieve this by partnering with a broker like Pepperstone. On our platform, you gain access to a diverse selection of global indices via Contracts for Difference (CFDs). This enables you to speculate on index price movements without direct ownership of the underlying indices.

When you trade an index, you use a derivative to track the performance on the index and then you speculate on the price movement of the Index. This differs from investing in an index where you’ll buy the underlying asset directly.

One common derivative used to trade indices is called a "contract for difference" (CFD). CFDs allow you to speculate on the price movements of the index without owning the underlying assets. This means you can potentially profit from both rising and falling markets, although it also means you're exposed to more risk.

How to trade equity indices

Trading example: Index CFDs

Let’s look at an example. Say you want to trade on the US 500 Index, you’ve done your market analysis and believe it will increase in value. So you decide to buy an Index CFD in other words to go ‘long’. Let’s say you decide to open a trade worth £1000 but, because you’re trading with index CFDs and the margin amount is 1%, you’ll only need to put down £10 to open a £1000 trade. However, both profits and losses will be calculated from the full £1000 amount, not the £10 margin.

Once your position is open, you would start profiting if the index’s price indeed rises. However if the US 500 falls instead, you would be in a losing position. It's crucial to have a risk management strategy in place, such as a stop-loss order, to limit your potential losses.

2. Indices markets for beginners

When trading indices, it's essential to understand how each index's weightings work and how they may impact the index's overall performance. By considering the dynamics of sector weighting and an index’s sensitivity to each sector, traders can make more informed decisions and manage their risks more effectively.

For example, the US500 tracks the performance of the top 500 companies in the US, while the US30, also known as the Wall Street 30 tracks the performance of the top 30 blue-chip companies in the US, e.g. Apple, Disney, IBM, Intel etc.

Each index's weighting is determined by the individual company's market capitalisation, with larger companies carrying a more significant weight in the index. This means that the performance of the most significant companies can have a significant impact on the index's overall performance.

It's also crucial to consider each sector's contribution to the index, as different indices have different sector weightings. For example, the ASX 200 has a higher weighting towards financials, while the energy sector has a lower weighting. This means that any significant developments in the financial sector could have a more substantial impact on the index's performance than changes in the energy sector.

Another factor to consider is the sensitivity of an index to individual sectors. For example, the Tech100 is highly sensitive to changes in the technology sector, as it is composed of high-growth, high-valuation tech firms. In contrast, the ASX 200 is less sensitive to the technology sector's performance due to its lower weighting.

It's also essential to keep an eye on the global economic landscape, as events in one part of the world can impact indices across the globe. For example, changes in the USDJPY can impact the JPN225 due to the significant contribution from exporters in Japan.

3. Understand what causes price movements

When it comes to indices, there are a variety of factors that can cause price movements, some of the reasons may be:

  • General economic performance, both domestically and globally, such as economic releases of GDP growth, inflation, Purchasing Managers' Indices, and Non-Farm Payrolls.
  • Monetary policies from central banks, such as quantitative easing and reducing interest rates, which can have an impact on share prices.
  • Global market moves, as problems in one region can often spill over into others.
  • Specific issues within the country or region that the index represents, such as political instability or trade tensions.
  • Earnings reports from companies within the index, which can have a significant effect on the overall performance.
  • Thematic flows and trends, such as reflation, which can benefit certain sectors of the index.
  • Passive investment vehicles, such as ETFs and passive tracker funds, which buy individual companies in the index and can have an impact on their share prices,

  • Currency fluctuations, with a weaker currency potentially boosting the value of offshore revenues and driving up share prices.

You can keep up with what is happening with the markets by using Pepperstone’s economic calendar. It will help you prepare for key events and adjust your trading plan accordingly. The Daily Fix, provided by our Global Head of Research, is also a tool that can provide you with market analysis and keep you in the know on how indices around the world are performing.

4. Which indices can I trade with Pepperstone?

You can trade various global index markets from the U.S., U.K., Europe, Australia, and Asia with Pepperstone

Here are just some of the indices you can trade with us as CFDs:

MT4/MT5 ticket

Exchange

Index weight

AUS200

ASX 200

Market capitalised2

US30

Dow Jones industrial Average

Price weighted3

UK100

FTSE 100

Market capitalised

US500

S&P 500

Market capitalised

NAS100

NASDAQ 100

Market capitalised

GER30

DAX 30

Market capitalised

JPN225

Nikkei 225

Price weighted

US2000

Russell 2000

Market capitalised

FRA40

Cax 40

Market capitalised

HK50

Hang Seng

Market capitalised

CN50

China A50

Market capitalised

EUST50

Eurostoxx 50

Market capitalised

IT40

Italy MIB 40

Market capitalised

SPA35

IBEX 35

Market capitalised

Learn how to trade Shares

Step-by-step index trading

  1. Understand what an index is and how to trade indices
  2. Create a Pepperstone account or log in
  3. Connect your trading account to your preferred trading platform (MT4, MT5, TradingView or cTrader).
  4. Create a trading plan and risk management strategy
  5. Select the Index you want to trade, for example 'US30' and place your trade
  6. Continue to monitor your position and close when you’re ready, according to your trading plan

Not ready to start live trading yet? Practise with a risk-free demo account

Index trading can be high risk, especially for beginners. As a beginner index trader, it is important to manage your risk and ensure that you do not spend more capital than you can afford to lose. To gain a better understanding of the index markets and how a trading platform works, you can practise trading with a risk-free Pepperstone demo account.

A demo account allows you to trade with virtual money and experience real market conditions without risking any of your own capital. This way, you can learn how to place trades, manage risk, and test your trading strategies in a safe and controlled environment.

Using a demo account can help you gain the confidence and skills you need to become a successful index trader. It is important to treat your demo account as seriously as you would a live account, with a focus on developing your trading plan and strategy. Once you feel comfortable trading on the demo account, you can then consider transitioning to live trading with real money.

Open a Demo account

Frequently Asked Questions: Answers to Common Questions about Indices

What is an index?

An index is a basket of stocks or other financial instruments that represents a particular market (for example UK or US) or a sector, i.e., energy, healthcare or banks.

Which indices can I trade?

You can trade various indices as CFDs with Pepperstone and get access to the movement of 14 major stock markets around the world including US, Europe, Australia, and Asian indices. On Pepperstone you can trade the following on MT4/MT5: US2000, US500, US30, NAS100, UK100AUS200, GER30, CN50, EUST50, FRA40, HK50, IT40, SPA35 and JPN225

When can I trade indices?

The trading hours for traditional indices can vary based on the stock exchange where the index's constituent stocks are listed. Different stock exchanges around the world have their own designated trading hours for indices. It's important for traders to be aware of these specific trading hours as they can vary across time zones and regions. For example, most index markets are available to trade Monday - Friday.

How can I start trading indices with Pepperstone?

  1. Understand what an index is and how to trade indices
  2. Create a Pepperstone account or log in
  3. Connect your trading account to your preferred trading platform (MT4, MT5, TradingView or cTrader).
  4. Create a trading plan and risk management strategy
  5. Select the Index you want to trade, for example 'US30' and place your trade
  6. Continue to monitor your position and close according to your plan

What moves an index price?

Indices are influenced by a number of factors relating to general economic performance of various countries, such as their central bank’s monetary policies, earnings reports and inflation.

CONCLUSION: THE TL;DR SUMMARY

  • Indices are a basket of stock that represent a particular segment or market
  • Indices are structured either by their market capitalisation or they are price-weighted
  • An example of a popular Index is the US30, comprised of America's 30 most significant blue-chip companies, e.g. Apple, Disney, IBM, Intel etc.
  • You can trade any global Index, using derivatives like CFDs
  • Indices prices are influenced by factors relating to countries economic performance, monetary policies, earning reports and inflation.

1 DayTrading Broker Of The Year Awards 2023 - included innovation and customer service

2 Constituent stocks are weighted based on their total market capitalization

3 Constituent stocks are weighted based on their individual stock prices

The material provided here has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Whilst it is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research we will not seek to take any advantage before providing it to our clients.

Pepperstone doesn’t represent that the material provided here is accurate, current or complete, and therefore shouldn’t be relied upon as such. The information, whether from a third party or not, isn’t to be considered as a recommendation; or an offer to buy or sell; or the solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security, financial product or instrument; or to participate in any particular trading strategy. It does not take into account readers’ financial situation or investment objectives. We advise any readers of this content to seek their own advice. Without the approval of Pepperstone, reproduction or redistribution of this information isn’t permitted.