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

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

Vantage Updated Updated Wed, 2023 November 22 12:59

Contract for difference (CFD) Indices trading allows traders to speculate on the overall performance of industries or stock markets. An index can track a specific industry and area of economy, specific stock market, or even an entire market. Stock 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. 


The index’s value increases or decreases based on the performance of its constituents. A change in the index’s value is often of greater importance than the actual value, as it indicates the performance of the market. [2]

Key Points

  • Indices CFDs (Contracts for Difference) are financial derivatives that allow investors to speculate on the price movements of a specific stock market index, representing a group of stocks, without owning the underlying assets.
  • Indices CFDs work by tracking the performance of the underlying stock market index, allowing traders to make a return from the difference between the opening and closing prices without owning the actual components of the index.
  • Indices CFDs offer various advantages, such as the ability to go long or short and the flexibility to trade on margin.


Commonly Traded Indices

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

1. 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 capitalization. It mainly includes the top 100 stocks with the highest market caps.

2. NASDAQ 100 (US Tech 100)

The NASDAQ 100 is a US index of the top 100 non-financial enterprises on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. Weights of stocks in this index are based on their capitalization, with various rules imposed to regulate the influence of larger securities.

3. Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)

The DJIA, also known as the Dow 30, is a US index of the 30 best performing companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). DJIA is also one of the oldest and best-known stock market indexes in the world. 

4. S&P 500

The S&P 500 is a market capitalization-weighted index of 500 companies with the largest capitalization. Unlike the tech-heavy Nasdaq, the breadth of the companies included in the index makes it one of the best indicators of overall US stock market performance. This index is hence favored by traders as it tracks a huge part of the US economy.

Advantages of CFD Indices Trading

  • 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 a stock 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

  • 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

1. Follow the Latest News

It is paramount for traders to keep up to date on financial news and risk events taking place before deciding what stock indices they want to trade on. Changes in financial news can have a huge impact on indices based in the region and being able to identify possible price movement increases your chances to take advantage of market opportunities. Moreover, it reduces the risk of being caught off guard by the market.

2. Hedging

CFD trading is commonly used to hedge investments because it allows you to “short” (sell) the index. For example, if your investment portfolio contains various stocks and you’re expecting a sudden decline, you can use CFDs as a trading strategy to potentially reduce your downside exposure by offsetting losses.

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

Never invest more than you can afford to lose. 

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

Trading indices with CFDs offers the opportunity to capitalise on underlying market movements and diversify exposure without cherry-picking individual stocks. By practicing trading and leveraging financial derivatives like CFDs and index futures, traders can manage risks associated with borrowing stock and gain insights into share price fluctuations. This approach creates trading opportunities that might not be available when trading stocks directly. To succeed in trading indices with CFDs, develop a solid trading strategy, stay informed about the markets you’re trading in, and choose a reputable broker with a user-friendly platform. 

Start Trading with Vantage

Access markets including forex, commodities, indices, shares/stocks and more, at low cost.

Start trading CFD stocks by opening a live account here, or practice trading with virtual currency with a demo account.

You can also sign up for our free, weekly webinars that will break down the current markets as well as discuss potential trade set ups for the week.


  1. “How do index CFDs work? | Indices 101 – FlowBank.” . https://www.flowbank.com/en/research/how-do-index-cfds-work-indices-101 . Accessed 7 Apr 2022
  2. “How do index CFDs work? | Indices 101 – FlowBank.” . https://www.flowbank.com/en/research/how-do-index-cfds-work-indices-101 . Accessed 7 Apr 2022
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