For five years, Top Stockbrokers has provided a ranking of the best providers of contracts for difference (CFDs), a type of derivative that allows for low-cost, short-term leveraged trading. CFDs are a contract between two parties where one pays the other profits depending on the movement of a reference asset. So, for example, two parties can write a CFD on MTN, then pay each other the profit implied by the movement of the reference share. When we introduced this award in 2012, CFDs were extremely popular: they were the second-most traded instrument after equities. However, their popularity has waned, and this year exchange traded funds overtook CFDs in trading activity. This is a worldwide trend. CFDs are useful for shorter-term traders as they are generally cheaper to trade in and out of than normal shares, but they become more expensive the longer the holding period.Determining the best CFD providers is a fraught conceptual problem — there are many issues that are important. Idea...

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