A contract for difference (or CFD) is a contract between two parties, typically described as "buyer" and "seller", stipulating that the seller will pay to the buyer the difference between the current value of an asset and its value at contract time. (If the difference is negative, then the buyer pays instead to the seller.)
For example, when applied to equities, such a contract is an equity derivative that allows investors to speculate on share price movements, without the need for ownership of the underlying shares. In effect CFDs are financial derivatives that allow investors to take long or short positions on underlying financial instruments and are often used to speculate on those markets.
CFDs are currently available in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Singapore, South Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, France, Ireland, Japan and Spain. Some other securities markets, such as Hong Kong, have plans to issue CFDs in the near future. CFDs are not permitted in the United States, due to restrictions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on over-the-counter (OTC) financial instruments.