Risks With Contracts for Differences (CFD)
CFDs can be quite risky due to low industry regulation, potential lack of liquidity, and the need to maintain an adequate margin due to leveraged losses.
The counterparty is the company which provides the asset in a financial transaction. When buying or selling a CFD, the only asset being traded is the contract issued by the CFD provider. This exposes the trader to the provider's other counterparties, including other clients the CFD provider conducts business with. The associated risk is that the counterparty fails to fulfill its financial obligations.
If the provider is unable to meet these obligations, then the value of the underlying asset is no longer relevant. It is important to recognize that the CFD industry is not highly regulated and the broker's credibility is based on reputation, longevity, and financial position rather than government standing or liquidity.
Unexpected information, changes in market conditions and government policy can result in quick changes. Due to the nature of CFDs, small changes may have a big impact on returns. An unfavorable effect on the value of the underlying asset may cause the provider to demand a second margin payment. If margin calls can’t be met, the provider may close your position or you may have to sell at a loss.
Client Money Risk
In countries where CFDs are legal, there are client money protection laws to protect the investor from potentially harmful practices of CFD providers. By law, money transferred to the CFD provider must be segregated from the provider’s money in order to prevent providers from hedging their own investments. However, the law may not prohibit the client’s money from being pooled into one or more accounts.
When a contract is agreed upon, the provider withdraws an initial margin and has the right to request further margins from the pooled account. If the other clients in the pooled account fail to meet margin calls, the CFD provider has the right to draft from the pooled account with potential to affect returns.
Liquidity Risks and Gapping
When there are not enough trades being made in the market for an underlying asset, your existing contract can become illiquid. At this point, a CFD provider can require additional margin payments or close contracts at inferior prices.
Due to the fast-moving nature of financial markets, the price of a CFD can fall before your trade can be executed at a previously agreed-upon price, also known as gapping. This means the holder of an existing contract would be required to take less than optimal profits or cover any losses incurred by the CFD provider.