A forward contract is an agreement between a buyer and seller to trade an asset, usually a currency, at a mutually agreed upon fixed price and set date. Unlike futures contracts, forward contracts are private arrangements between the buyer and seller, and, as such, they are not traded on the centralized exchange, but rather are considered part of the OTC market. This makes forward contracts a riskier venture than futures contracts. The primary factors in determining the price of a forward contract are the market value of the asset and the time at which point the contract will be fulfilled, which is influenced by the swap rates.
Forward contracts are purchased in a manner similar to that of futures contracts. The buyer and seller agree on the asset to be sold, on the price, and on the date that the exchange will take place. The forward contract is settled only when the contract term expires, unlike futures contracts, which settle on a daily basis. Forward contracts are primarily used as a tool to hedge the volatility in the asset being traded. That forward contracts can be more highly customized than futures contracts provides both more flexibility, but also a higher risk.