What is the Cost of Carry?

The financial domain is filled with complex terms and jargon, making it challenging for individuals to fully understand the various concepts and strategies used in the market. One term that may leave many puzzled is the “cost of carry.” This term is often used in the commodities market and can significantly impact the overall value of an investment. Understanding this concept is crucial for investors and traders, as it can greatly affect their decision-making process.

In this guide, we will discuss its meaning, significance, calculation, and implications in the financial market.

Understand the Cost of Carry

The cost of carry, in financial terms, refers to the total expenses incurred when holding a financial position or asset over a specific period. It encompasses various elements such as storage costs, interest charges on borrowed funds, insurance fees, and other costs associated with maintaining the position or asset.

For investors and traders, understanding these costs is of utmost importance. It allows them to accurately calculate the potential profitability of their investments, assess risk levels, and make informed decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of the overall costs involved.

By utilising a cost of carry calculator, investors and traders can evaluate the financial feasibility of their strategies and optimise their positions accordingly.

What is the Cost of Carry Model?

The cost of carry model is a theoretical framework used to determine the fair price of futures contracts by incorporating various carrying costs. It considers factors such as interest rates, storage costs, and dividends to calculate the cost associated with holding a position in a futures contract over a specific period. The model assumes that the cost of carrying the underlying asset is proportional to the prevailing interest rates and storage expenses.

Further, it considers the impact of dividends received during the holding period. By factoring in these costs, the model provides a more accurate representation of the fair price of futures contracts, allowing traders and investors to make more informed decisions. Implementing the cost of carry formula or using a cost of carry calculator enables individuals to assess the financial viability of their futures trading strategies and optimise their positions accordingly.

Futures Cost of Carry

In the futures markets, the cost of carry concept plays a crucial role in determining the pricing of futures contracts. Carrying costs, including interest rates, storage expenses, and dividends, all factor into the overall cost of holding a position in a futures contract over a specific period. Considering these costs, the model provides insights into the relationship between spot and future prices.

A simple cost of carry example could involve holding a stock that requires paying interest on the borrowed funds to buy it while receiving dividends from it. If you borrow Rs. 100,000 at a 10% annual interest rate to buy a stock and receive Rs. 2,000 in dividends, the annual cost of carry is Rs. 10,000 (interest) – Rs. 2,000 (dividends) = Rs. 8,000

Cost of Carry Formula

The cost of carry formula provides a systematic approach to calculating the total cost of carrying an asset or position in the futures market. The formula can be expressed as follows:

Cost of Carry = Storage Costs + Financing Costs + Dividends – Convenience Yield

Storage Costs

This component represents the expenses incurred for storing the asset over a specific period. It includes costs such as warehousing, insurance, and maintenance.

Financing Costs

This element considers the interest expenses of financing the asset or position. It reflects the opportunity cost of holding the asset instead of investing the funds elsewhere.


If the asset in question is an equity or a dividend-paying security, dividends received during the holding period can offset some of the cost of carry. This component accounts for the cash flows received from the asset.

Convenience Yield

 The convenience yield refers to the intangible benefits or advantages of holding the physical asset rather than a futures contract. It represents the value derived from immediate access to the asset, such as hedging against supply disruptions or gaining control over the asset.

How to Calculate Cost of Carry?

The calculation involves a step-by-step approach, ensuring you account for all relevant costs and incomes associated with holding the asset. Here’s how to do it:

  • Identify Financing Costs: Determine the total amount borrowed and the interest rate. Calculate the annual interest expense.

  • Calculate Storage Costs: For physical assets, estimate the costs for storage and insurance over the period you plan to hold the asset.

  • Deduct Income Earned: Sum up any income (dividends, interest) that will be received from holding the asset.

  • Use a Cost-of-Carry Calculator: A cost-of-carry calculator can greatly simplify the process, especially for complex scenarios involving multiple assets or fluctuating rates. It automatically factors the various components, providing a quick and accurate calculation.

When calculating the cost of carry for different types of assets, consider the specific costs and incomes associated with each. For stocks, focus on financing costs and dividends; for commodities, storage and insurance costs are also critical; for currencies, consider the interest differential between the two currencies.

What is the Cost of Carry in Derivatives?

Within the context of derivatives trading, the cost of carry takes on a unique significance. Carrying costs, which refer to the expenses associated with holding a position in a derivative instrument, play a crucial role in determining the pricing and valuation of derivatives, especially options and futures. Unlike physical assets, derivatives do not involve the ownership of the underlying asset itself but rather derive their value from it.

As a result, the cost considerations for derivatives differ significantly. Instead of storage costs or dividends, factors such as interest rates, financing charges, and the time value of money come into play. Traders and investors must accurately assess these carrying costs to price and value derivatives, ensuring they account for the time, risk, and financing involved in holding these positions.

By understanding and managing the unique cost considerations of derivatives, market participants can make informed decisions and effectively navigate the complexities of derivatives trading.

Net Return Calculations

When evaluating investment performance, it is essential to incorporate the cost of carry into net return calculations.

By accurately assessing carrying costs, investors can understand their net returns comprehensively. This is particularly important in total return analysis, where the cost of carry plays a significant role in determining the overall profitability of an investment. Adjusting for carrying costs allows for a more accurate assessment of investment performance, as it considers the impact of financing and time on returns.

How Does Cost of Carry Represent Bullishness or Bearishness?

The cost of carry can serve as an insightful indicator of market sentiment and provide valuable insights into bullish or bearish outlooks for an asset. Lower carrying costs typically indicate a more bullish sentiment, suggesting that the market is willing to pay a premium to hold the asset. This can be driven by high demand, positive investor sentiment, or expectations of future price appreciation.

On the other hand, higher carrying costs may signify a bearish outlook, as it suggests that the market is less willing to hold the asset and requires compensation for the associated risks and costs. From a psychological perspective, lower carrying costs may instil confidence and encourage investors to buy, contributing to further price increases.

Conversely, higher carrying costs may create uncertainty and prompt selling, leading to downward price pressure. From a financial standpoint, lower carrying costs can also attract arbitrageurs who exploit the price discrepancies between the spot and derivative markets, further driving up the asset’s price.

Contrarily, higher carrying costs may deter arbitrage opportunities, potentially leading to price corrections.


The concept of cost of carry is an important one to understand in the world of finance and investing. Investors can make more informed decisions about their trades and portfolios by factoring in the costs of holding and financing a financial instrument.

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