E-mini Futures

Contributor Image
Written By
Contributor Image
Written By
Christian Harris
Christian is a seasoned journalist with decades of experience. He transitioned from tech journalism to finance to follow his interest in investing. He has been trading stocks, futures, forex, and cryptocurrencies for more than 5 years, becoming an eToro Popular Investor. With hands-on expertise across various assets, he offers valuable trading insights.
Contributor Image
Edited By
Contributor Image
Edited By
James Barra
James is an investment writer with a background in financial services. He has worked as a management consultant, where he delivered large-scale operational transformational programmes at some of Europe's biggest banks. James authors, edits and fact-checks content for a series of investing websites.

E-mini futures, more commonly known as E-minis, serve as a platform for trading various assets on a more manageable scale, including indices, currencies and commodities.

This guide explains how trading E-minis works, from popular markets and example trades to their benefits and drawbacks.

Quick Introduction

  • E-minis are smaller-sized contracts derived from standard futures contracts, often tracking major indices like the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100.
  • They allow you to gain exposure to these indices at a fraction of the cost of a standard futures contract.
  • E-minis normally exhibit high liquidity and trading volumes, providing tighter bid-ask spreads and increased ease of entry and exit.
  • E-minis are often available with leverage, allowing you to control a larger position with a smaller outlay, though this requires careful risk management.

Best E-mini Brokers

We have tested hundreds of brokers and recommend these 3 platforms for trading E-minis:

Interactive Brokers
Traders can choose between: 100% unlimited Sharing Bonus – minimum $200 deposit. 40% Power Bonus up to $4,000 – minimum $500 deposit. 20% Iron Bonus up to $2,000 – minimum $100 deposit.

What Are E-mini Futures?

E-mini futures represent a category of futures contracts, designed to provide a more accessible and affordable entry point into the futures market.

The ‘E’ in E-mini stands for electronic, highlighting their electronic trading nature, allowing you to access these markets via electronic platforms from anywhere in the world.

Table showing NASDAQ 100 E-mini futures contracts
E-mini NASDAQ Futures. Source: CME

A futures contract represents a legally binding financial agreement between two parties. It obligates them to buy or sell an underlying asset at a prearranged price on a specific date in the future.

Importantly, these products offer a reduced contract size compared to their larger counterparts, making them appealing to a broader range of traders.

They also require a smaller initial margin, enabling you to control a more significant position with a relatively small outlay.

Their versatility, combined with the ability to profit from both upward and downward market movements, makes E-minis an attractive choice if you are looking to diversify your portfolio or engage in more dynamic trading approaches within the futures market.

author image
Christian Harris


The most popular E-mini futures markets by trading volume include:

How To Trade E-minis

Let’s consider an example of a hypothetical E-mini S&P 500 (ES) futures trade. Suppose I’m bullish on the S&P 500 index, and after conducting market analysis, I anticipate a potential upward movement in the index:

  1. Market analysis: I’ve analyzed the S&P 500 chart, identified support levels, and noticed positive momentum indicators, suggesting a possible uptrend.
  2. Trade setup: With the current S&P 500 index at 4,000 points, I decide to enter a long (buy) position on the E-mini S&P 500 (ES) futures contract.
  3. Order placement: Let’s assume each point movement in the ES contract represents $50. I decide to enter a long position at 4,000 points, anticipating a rise in the index. I buy one contract at 4,000 points.
  4. Profit scenario: If the S&P 500 index rises to 4,050 points, a 50-point increase, my trade would result in a profit. Calculating based on the contract size ($50 per point), my profit would be 50 points x $50 = $2,500.
  5. Risk management: Conversely, if the market moves against my prediction and the index drops to 3,950 points, resulting in a 50-point loss, my trade would incur a loss of 50 points x $50 = -$2,500.

To manage risk, I could set a stop-loss order at a predetermined level, such as 3,980 points, limiting potential losses.

Additionally, I may set a profit target, say at 4,050 points, to secure gains.

Pros And Cons Of Trading E-mini Futures


  • Liquidity & accessibility: E-mini futures markets are highly liquid, providing ample short-term trading opportunities with tight bid-ask spreads. Their electronic nature allows for easy access, enabling you to participate in these markets from anywhere with internet connectivity.
  • Reduced capital requirements: E-mini futures contracts have smaller sizes compared to standard futures, requiring lower margin amounts. This reduced capital outlay allows you to control larger positions relative to your invested capital, amplifying potential returns.
  • Diversification: E-mini futures provide exposure to various asset classes, including stock market indices, currencies, commodities, and more. This diversity allows you to spread your investments across different markets, reducing overall risk by not being overly concentrated in one asset class.
  • Leverage: E-mini futures contracts offer leverage, amplifying both gains and losses. While this entails risk, judicious use of leverage can magnify potential profits, providing opportunities for higher returns relative to the invested capital.
  • Opportunities for different trading styles: E-mini futures cater to diverse trading styles, accommodating day traders, swing traders, hedgers, and speculators alike. The flexibility in these contracts allows you to adopt various strategies to capitalize on market movements in both rising and falling markets.


  • Risk: The leverage offered by E-mini futures can amplify both gains and losses. While it provides the potential for increased profits, it also heightens the risk of significant losses, especially if you do not employ proper risk management strategies.
  • Volatility: E-mini futures markets can be highly volatile, leading to rapid price movements. Sudden market fluctuations can trigger unexpected losses, particularly if you aren’t prepared for or adequately manage volatility.
  • Margin requirements: While lower compared to standard futures contracts, margin requirements for E-mini futures still exist. If not managed properly, margin calls can force you to close positions or add additional funds to your accounts, potentially leading to losses.
  • Market hours: E-mini futures have specific trading hours, limiting the time available for trading compared to other markets that operate around the clock. You need to align your trading activities within these specific timeframes.
  • Market complexity: Futures trading, including E-mini futures, involves complexities such as contract expirations, rollover procedures, and understanding the underlying markets. Novice traders may find it challenging to grasp these intricacies, potentially leading to trading errors and losses.

E-mini Vs E-micro Futures

The primary distinction between E-mini and E-micro futures resides in their contract sizes, affecting their accessibility to traders.

E-mini futures contracts enable you to access these indices at a fraction of the cost of standard futures, broadening their appeal due to the reduced contract sizes.

In contrast, E-micro futures are even smaller-sized contracts than E-mini futures, tailored for traders seeking an even more approachable entry into futures markets.

Representing a smaller fraction of the underlying index’s value compared to E-minis, E-micros demand an even smaller initial margin. This makes them enticing for traders with limited capital or a preference for smaller-scale trading.

Despite their varying contract sizes, both E-mini and E-micro futures offer similar advantages such as high liquidity, electronic trading convenience, and opportunities for diverse trading strategies without direct exposure to stock market indices.

IBKR E-mini micro futures
Source: Interactive Brokers


Suppose the current value of the S&P 500 index is at 4,500 points. The E-mini S&P 500 (ES) contract size might be, for instance, 1/5th of the standard contract size, meaning each point movement in the index represents $5.

For the E-micro S&P 500 (MES) contract, which represents an even smaller fraction, let’s say it’s 1/10th of the E-mini contract size. Therefore, each point movement in the index for the E-micro contract would represent $0.50.

If the S&P 500 index moves up by 10 points:

This example illustrates the difference in price movement between the E-mini and E-micro contracts based on their respective contract sizes.

E-micro contracts generally represent a smaller value per point movement compared to E-minis, allowing you to participate in the markets with smaller position sizes and reduced exposure to price fluctuations.

author image
Christian Harris

Bottom Line

Since their introduction in 1997, E-minis have enabled traders to engage in positions on the major US indexes with significantly less capital compared to standard contracts.

E-minis enhance liquidity in the futures market for smaller traders and help to level the playing field by diminishing the unfair advantage held by larger traders.

To start trading E-minis, see our recommended brokers, many of which offer demo accounts where you can practice before risking money.


How Do E-mini Futures Work?

E-mini futures are smaller-sized futures contracts that track various assets such as stock market indices, commodities, and currencies.

They offer accessibility to these markets with reduced contract sizes compared to standard futures, allowing for increased flexibility, liquidity, and opportunities for diverse trading strategies in the futures market.

How Did E-minis Start?

The history of E-mini futures traces back to the late 1990s, specifically September 1997, when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) introduced these smaller-sized contracts to the futures market.

The first E-mini contract to debut was the E-mini S&P 500, designed to track the performance of the broader S&P 500 index. These contracts were a fraction of the size of the standard S&P 500 futures, making them more attainable for individual traders and smaller institutional investors.

Over time, the success of the E-mini S&P 500 paved the way for the introduction of various other E-mini contracts, including those tracking indices like the Nasdaq 100, and Dow Jones Industrial Average, as well as currencies and commodities.

What Is The Difference Between The S&P 500 And E-mini S&P 500?

The S&P 500 is an index composed of 500 large-cap stocks traded on US exchanges, representing a broad measure of the stock market.

The E-mini S&P 500 is a futures contract that tracks the performance of the S&P 500 index, but it’s a smaller-sized version traded on futures exchanges.

While both reflect the same underlying index, the E-mini S&P 500 offers you a way to gain exposure to the index through futures contracts with reduced contract sizes compared to the standard S&P 500 futures.

What Months Are E-mini S&P 500 Futures Contracts?

E-mini S&P 500 futures contracts are available for trading across multiple expiration months. Typically, they follow the quarterly cycle of March (H), June (M), September (U), and December (Z).

For instance, you might encounter contracts expiring in March, June, September, or December, allowing you to choose contracts with different expiration dates based on your trading strategies and objectives.

When Can You Trade E-mini Futures?

E-mini futures generally have extended trading hours compared to regular stock market hours. The specific trading hours can vary based on the futures exchange and the type of E-mini contract, but they typically include:

Regular Trading Hours (RTH): This usually aligns with the primary stock market hours and typically spans from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Eastern Time (ET) in the US. This period is known as the regular trading session and mirrors the hours of major stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq.

Extended Trading Hours (ETH): E-mini futures often offer extended trading hours beyond the regular session. The ETH usually begins before the RTH and can continue after the market closes. The ETH can start as early as 6:00 pm ET the previous day and extend until 8:00 pm ET or later on certain exchanges.

Article Sources

The writing and editorial team at DayTrading.com use credible sources to support their work. These include government agencies, white papers, research institutes, and engagement with industry professionals. Content is written free from bias and is fact-checked where appropriate. Learn more about why you can trust DayTrading.com