Cryptocurrency Exchanges That Have Perpetual Futures Trading

Every investment comes with investment risks especially those related to volatility or immediate change in prices. For instance, if a company signs an agreement to deliver a certain amount of a given commodity in six months and it’s a commodity whose price may decrease during that period, then this company is prone to incurring significant losses if the prices involved drop. To avoid these issues, a company may enter into a futures contract to hedge against those risks and uncertainties and have more predictable revenue after delivering the product. In addition, this may also enable a company to offset all or only a portion of its risks.

One way of hedging against losses like these is using perpetual futures, although it should be noted that one of the primary reasons for trading in this sort of derivative is to speculate on the prices of certain assets with the intention of profiting from volatile markets.

Perpetual contracts are set to mimic margin-based spot markets. This means that they trade at prices close to the underlying reference index price of the asset or assets they represent. They differ from the more popular crypto futures in that the latter do not have deliveries for cryptocurrency or rather no cryptocurrency get to change hands between the traders. Once the futures contract expires, the traders involved can settle the  cash difference between the contracts' buy and sell prices between themselves.

Perpetual futures also do not have expiration dates. Additionally, they can also include crypto delivery which means the difference of crypto traded amount between the sell and buy prices gets to change hands. That means while the other kind of futures contracts are settled in cash, perpetual futures are settled in the commodity itself.

In entering a futures contract on an exchange, a person, group or company will basically agree to buy or sell an asset (in this case crypto) at a pre-determined price in the future. Thus, the buyer or seller can profit from both bearish and bullish markets as they can choose a position when entering a trade. As mentioned earlier, a perpetual futures contract is similar to futures contract save they do not have an expiry date. In short, a seller can buy the crypto now to either take a short or long position on it. Taking a long position or "Longing" means buying now to sell later and shorting means selling now to buy later. These contracts can be traded on margin or with leverage. In either case, the trader or company borrows money from the exchange or company offering these futures, in order to enter their trading position.   

Therefore, in addition to commodity futures like oil and gold futures, companies can also use currency futures to hedge against risks related to the fluctuations in all sorts of currencies. Now we have crypto futures contracts, which are for the purpose of hedging against losses or for the purpose of speculation in crypto markets. 

Below are some of the crypto exchanges or derivatives markets on which you might want to trade perpetual futures contracts. Most of these now offer perpetual contracts not just for Bitcoin but also for other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, BCH, and XRP.

BitMex

In BitMex’s perpetual futures contracts, the true exchange of funds between the buyer and the seller occurs after 8 hours. The longs pay and the shorts receive the rate if the rate is positive, while vice versa happens if the rate is negative. BitMex allows users to trade in margins. In this case, when entering trades related to perpetual contracts, the trader involved will need to be aware of said contracts' initial maintenance margins, which determine how much leverage the trader gets and at what point liquidation occurs.

Payment to or from such contracts is done by those with positions still open when the exchange they're using is open for trading.  For users, the rate at which they are paid can be viewed from the “Contract Details” tab or under the individual “Contract Specifications” feature. Historical values are also available.

The funding rate, which consists of the interest rate and the premium/discount, aims to keep traded price of the contract in line with underlying reference price. Since buyers and sellers exchange interest payments periodically, the contract mimics margin-trading markets.

BitMex calculates the amount each user will receive or pay at the end of the designated 8-hour period by applying the Funding Rate to the value of each trader's XBT position. Here, it's important to note that the funding rate is equal to the interest rate.

Bitmex calculates the Premium Index and the Interest Rate every minute and then does the 8-Hour Time-Weighted-Average-Price (TWAP) over a series of specific minute rates. The maximum Funding Rate is capped at 75% of the difference between the Initial Margin and the Maintenance Margin. The funding rate is also not charged at more than 75% of the Maintenance Margin between Funding Intervals. Overall, these two caps are placed to ensure the maximum leverage can still always be utilized in trading.

In general, BitMEX does not charge any fees for funding user accounts and the exchange is peer-to-peer. The fact that they do not have expiry and delivery means traders saves their time rolling over their contracts regularly. OKEX perpetual futures realizes and settles profits twice a day and thus users can quit and allocate their funds to other uses at any time.

Traders can also multiply gains using greater leverage of up to 100x leverage.

Bybit

Bybit is a dedicated crypto derivatives exchange which is headquartered in Singapore. Their perpetual futures contracts do not have a specified future settlement date just as is with other perpetual futures elsewhere. That means there is no expiry date. With it, traders can speculate on prices and hedge falling prices since they can buy and sell positions and hold them however long they wish.    

Bybit perpetual futures use dual-price mechanism to protect against manipulation and in order to ensure a fair trading environment. While most exchanges use the Last Traded Price as the trigger for the liquidation of futures contracts, Bybit actually uses the Mark Price as the trigger for liquidation. This reduces the possibility of manipulation since the Mark Price is a reference to the real-time spot price transactions that occur on major exchanges. 

The perpetual futures on Bybit are also tied to or pegged to the spot price of the asset they represent, using what is known as Funding (a process in which the last traded price is anchored onto the global spot price). The funding is exchanged between long and short positions every eight hours where if the funding rate is positive, long positions will pay the short positions and if negative, short positions pay the long positions. 

Bybit customers can get up to 100:1 flexible leverage to trade perpetual futures. Compared to what’s offered on many futures exchanges (between 5-20x leverage), this is a generous option. The leverage is between 3-5 times the margins for regular spot margin market, but in the end, the cost for such a position can be quite high.

The exchange then applies what is called an “Auto-Deleveraging” (ADL) contract loss mechanism to protect investors from being negatively affected by large losses. This is in contrast to the socialized loss system, in which all profitable traders share their profit percentages and effective leverages, selecting the highest leveraged and the most successful traders(in terms of profits) to be de-leveraged first.  

Crypto Facilities

Crypto Facilities launched their perpetual futures contracts in 2018, starting with five digital currencies and 6 trading pairs (BTC, ETH, LTC, XRP and BCH). Crypto Facilities is registered in the U.K. with the country's Financial Conduct Authority.  

With Crypto Facilities perpetual futures, open positions continuously receive their payments based on the Funding Rate set at the end of the previous Funding Period. The Funding Rate is calculated as the time-weighted average premium and standardized per hour. To calculate the Funding Rate, the Average Premium is first calculated. This is done in a given 4-hour funding period and calculated by recording 240 minutely perpetual contract price observations as compared to a measurement called the Real-Time Platform Ticker. Then the Average Premium is calculated as the average of the middle 120 observations recorded.    

The value is then weighted by the Funding Rate Multiplier. This multiplier is a coefficient that's used in calculating the funding rate. This means that for instance, an 1/n rate specifies that it takes n hours to realize a specific Average Premium.  

Example: if the Average Premium is 0.32% for the four hour period in question, then the Funding Rate is equal to 0.04%, meaning that over the course of 8 hours, a 0.32% total will be realized.

From these calculations, if the Average Premium is larger than 0 for the four hour period, those in long positions (still open at the end of the 4 hour period) will continuously pay out to short positions and this would push the price closer to the index. Otherwise, if the Premium is less than 0 for the 4 hour period, then those in short positions would continuously pay out to Long positions, and this would push the contract's price close to the Index price.

With Crypto Facilities, perpetual contracts are traded 24/7. They are also settled in the given cryptocurrency: Cash-settled in XBT, ETH, LTC, BCH, and XRP.   

With regards to fees, takers pay 0.075%, while makers pay -0.020%.

Furthermore, since the positions in the contract never reach the statuses of “expired” or “matured," perpetual futures do not expire. However, there is a four hour settlement applying to funding to anchor the spot value to the Index. Settlement is done every four hours, which means: 12 UTC, 16 UTC, 20 UTC, 24 UTC, 4 UTC, and 8 UTC. The accumulated unrealized funding is then settled and a new rate ia set.

Traders on the Crypto Facilities exchange can trade on margin, with a minimum of 2% as well as the fact that maintenance margin presents itself as half of the initial margin. 

Deribit

Deribit perpetual futures are meant to keep the prices as close to the underlying crypto price, Deribit BTC Index as possible. If the perpetual trades end up higher than the index prices they're tied to, then the traders who are holding long positions will make funding payments to the shorts and vice versa. When the former happens, it discourages long positions and tends to encourage shorts. This is generally how the price is likely to go back down to closer the Index level. The alternative happens when the perpetual trades are lower than the Index. In other words, positive funding rates mean the longs pay funding to shorts and vice versa. 

The Deribit exchange continuously measures the difference between the mark price of the perpetual futures contract and the Deribit BTC Index. The percentage difference between the two price levels for the 8 hourly funding rate is then applied to all perpetual futures contracts that are outstanding. With this, it's important to remember that the funding payments under the perpetual contract are calculated every millisecond. The payments are then added or subtracted from the relevant balances and at daily settlement, the realized profit and loss is moved to or from the respective users' cash balances so that withdrawals can be made. This also means that the users’ realized and unrealized session profits are added to their equity, but are only made available for withdrawal after settlement. The profits/losses are then booked to the corresponding BTC cash balances.

 Users can then track their transaction histories related to the funding they've paid.

 On the Deribit exchange, trading also happens on a 24/7 basis and daily settlements are done at 8.00 UTC. Traders on this exchange can also trade BTC perpetual on leverage or margin starting with 1.0% (100x leverage trading), which linearly increases 0.5% per 100 BTC increase in position size.  Initial margin = 1% + {PositionSize in BTC*0.005%).

On Deribit, maintenance margins start at 0.575% and linearly increase by 0.5% per 100 BTC increase in overall position size. The users' positions are incrementally reduced when their accounts' margin balances go lower than their corresponding maintenance positions. This is done in order to keep maintenance margin lower than the equity in the account. It is possible to change the maintenance margin at any time and without any notice if market circumstances demand it.

Deribit charges an 0.075% taker fee and gives makers a 0.025% rebate. The liquidation of trades costs users 0.5% in liquidation fees (0.425% insurance income and 0.075% exchange fees). The maximum allowed contract position is 1,000,000 contracts ($ 10,000,000).

ETH and all other crypto perpetual futures feature different margins and maintenance margins as well as fees. 

The funding rate is calculated by multiplying the premium rate by the dampener. The premium rate is a percentage ratio of the difference between the market price and Deribit index ((Mark Price - Deribit Index)/(Deribit Index) *100%.

The funding rate is calculated by multiplying the above with a measure called a dampener. The funding payment is then constituted by multiplying the funding rate by the position size BTC and the time fraction.

Further details on how the calculation is done can be found here.

OKEX

OKEX perpetual swaps let parties exchange the cash flows of two different financial instruments. Their peer-to-peer derivative product allows users to speculate on the direction of the price of digital assets such as Bitcoin. Traders can also take a long position to profit from an increase in prices or short positions to profit from decline of a digital asset's prices.

Instead of the perpetual futures being traded at a different price from spot market like it happens on some other perpetual futures exchanges, OKEX's are traded close to the underlying reference index. Each of the contract is worth USD100-worth of BTC or USD10-worth of another asset (e.g. LTC, ETH, etc.)

OKEX also uses the Market Price mechanism to avoid unnecessary liquidation of futures contracts, has daily settlements and traders can withdraw profits daily; this is in addition to OKEX using partial liquidation system to help minimize market impacts in case of forced liquidation.

With OKEx, traders can also adjust their margin leverage levels based on their risk and the market conditions they're tracking, thanks to the exchange's Tiered margin system.

In addition to the common features in a perpetual futures, OKEX has also added market price in order to minimize impact of short term volatility, partial liquidation to help eliminate risks of cascade liquidation and clawback, funding to maintain reasonable price divergence between spot and perpetual swap markets.

Since data about futures and perpetual swaps is largely unavailable in the wider perpetual market, OKEX also recently launched a big data platform to help its traders gain access to perpetual trading data. With this built-in big data platform, OKEX customers can gain access to aggregated, real-time data of the futures and perpetual swap markets of 9 mainstream tokens, which includes their long/short positions ratios, sentiment indexes, and basis measurements.

The aim of the platform is to provide accurate and unbiased perpetual trading data so customers are able to develop their own trading strategies. It provides data in respect to six indicators; namely Long/Short Users Ratio, basis, open interest and trading volume, buy/sell taker volume, top trader sentiment index, and top trader average margin used.

The Mark Price provides a reasonable reference price based on the spot index price and the moving average of a particular asset. This helps to minimize the negative impacts by abnormal volatility in the perpetual swap market.    

The profit and loss that is realized by closing a position before delivery or settlement is calculated as;

Long side: RPL = (Face value/settlement price – face value/average closing price) * number of contracts closed

Short side: RPL = (Face value/average closing price – face value/settlement price) * number of contracts closed

Xena Exchange

Xena Exchange is a hedging and risk management platform that offers Bitcoin perpetual contracts, in which two parties are basically agreeing to buy or sell to each other at a pre-determined price on a specified future date. Like any other perpetual future contracts, theirs involve deliverables where the difference between the sell and buy price is actually exchanged. 

Xena lets its users trade Bitcoin and GRAM perpetual swaps in addition to Bitcoin volatility, mining difficulty and other assets. First, traders can leverage their trading at 20 times margins. What's more? The mechanism protects traders against volatility effects. This is done using the Price Range, as well as the Upper and Lower Limits measurements. Safe liquidation ensures that traders' positions are liquidated only after all price movements are confirmed. Traders can also trade in perpetual futures when the price of the asset they're interested in is going down, just as is with other perpetual markets. 

Users can also trade on margins of up to 100% for BTC and liquidation at 0.2%. 100% leverage means the trader can trade the underlying asset without having to pay the full price of that instrument. In these cases, traders can also access ETH/USD, XBT/USD and XGRAM pairs.       

Xena also charges maker and taker fees, as well as rebates depending on the users' monthly trading volumes, meaning profits increase with increasing trades. There are no taker fees when the respective maker fees are 0.025%. Tier 5 traders (over 100 BTC traded a month) will pay no fees while tier 0 traders (between 0 and 10 BTC traded a month) will pay 0.05% in maker fees.

Xena settles any unrealized profits for active positions every hour and these profits can then be used without restrictions, which means they can be withdrawn or remain available to act as collateral for new positions.

Xena charges the low fee of 0.03% for takers, while makers receive 0.03% rebate independent of their deposit size or trading volume. 

David Kariuki

David Kariuki likes to regard himself as a freelance tech journalist who has written and writes widely about a variety of tech issues that affect our society daily, including cryptocurrencies (see cryptomorrow.com and coinpedia.org); climate change (cleanleap.com), OpenSim and virtual reality (see hypergridbusiness.com). He is currently pursuing a MSc in Environmental Management at Open University. He does write here not to offer any investment advise but with the intention of informing audience, and articles in here are of his own opinion. Anyone willing to use any opinion here as advise to invest in crypto should obviously take own responsibility and accountability of their losses (or benefits) thereof. You can reach me at eqariu@gmail.com or david@cryptomorrow.com

One thought on “Cryptocurrency Exchanges That Have Perpetual Futures Trading

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