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About FACTSim 
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About FACTSim

The University of Florida's Financial and Agricultural Commodity Trading Simulation (FACTSim) is a tool to help students and industry practitioners learn more about trading commodities on the futures exchanges. FACTSim was designed by John VanSickle, Director of the International Agricultural Trade and Policy Center, Food & Resource Economics Department, IFAS, University of Florida.

FACTSim is a commodity trading simulator that allows users to buy and sell commodity, financial, and energy futures and options contracts using real-time quotes from the commodity exchanges. Available contracts come from the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the New York Board of Trade, the New York Mercantile Exchange, the Kansas City Board of Trade, the Middle America Commodities Exchange, and the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

Trading Engine:

FACTSim performs the brokerage functions a typical trader would deal with if trading these commodities in the real world. Transactions are submitted by the trader on an electronic form that is a part of the simulation. FACTSim then checks the account status of the trader to ensure there are sufficient funds to support the trading fees and the margin requirements for that trade, and obtains a current price quote to complete the trade. Once a trade is executed, FACTSim tracks the account by monitoring the current status of all open positions and the amount of money available for trading. The simulation also performs a nightly maintenance routine which checks the current status of the account to ensure there is sufficient capital to meet the maintenance margin requirements for all current open positions given the daily settlement price for each contract. FACTSim also keeps a log of all transactions for each account.

Traders can submit a number of order types, mimicking those available to them in the real world. FACTSim supports market orders, limit orders, stop orders, trade at open orders, trade at close orders, and fill or kill orders. The system performs automatic exercises of in-the-money option contracts upon their maturity, while offsetting all other contract types as they mature.

Every effort has been made to make FACTSim operate like a real brokerage. Users can take out loans, must repay margin calls, and must adhere to the exchanges' hours of operation. This realism is an invaluable asset in education, affording the ability to teach the intricacies of the futures market without the high-risk and capital involved with trading.

Instructor Tools:

This program is used in classrooms at the University of Florida, Auburn University, and many other universities and county extension offices around the country. Its use of real-time data makes it unique among the futures simulations available. FACTSim's web-based interface allows professors to monitor the progress of their students, and allows students access to their accounts from any computer with an internet connection.

FACTSim allows instructors to organize their students into trading groups. Each group can be customized on many levels, including:
  • Exchanges - Trades can be limited to a single exchange or any group of exchanges offered on FACTSim.
  • Product Types - Products can be limited by category. Categories include commodities, financials, energy, etc.
  • Contract Type - Trades can be limited to futures contracts, for instructors that don't want the added complexity of options contracts.
  • Expiration Dates - End trading for a group on a certain day, so that the students' trades are locked in for grading purposes.
  • Fees - Customize trade fees, exercise fees, loan fees, and interest rates.
  • Loans - Set maximum loan amounts available to users in a group. Setting the loan amount to 0 will stop students from taking out any loans.
In addition, FACTSim now allows instructors to assign TA's to groups. These teaching assistants can monitor a group's progress and bring problems to an instructor's attention.

Much attention has been paid to making FACTSim as useful to instructors as it is to students. The strong instructor feature set makes the system ideal for use in a classroom environment.

Expansion:

FACTSim is constantly under development; with developers tweaking the trading engine and adding new features. Here's a small sample of what's on the horizon:
  • Support for online assignments/quizzes, so that an instructor can see the students' responses to questions online.
  • Instructor group summaries in Microsoft Excel format.
  • Spread Orders
  • Historical Charts that will allow traders to assess the past performance of a contract.
  • Market News that will bring commodity updates for each contract using the University of Florida's Market Information Database System (MIDS).
  • FACTnet Integration will allow FACTSim users to access all aspects of FACTnet with their existing FACTSim user ID and password.
FACTSim is an invaluable tool to anyone who wishes to learn more about the futures and options markets. Its use in the classroom is growing, both at the University of Florida and at other institutions around the country. Feel free to browse around the site, and learn more about what makes FACTSim the one of the premier futures educational resources available.

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