Financial markets are, by nature, extremely volatile and hence the risk factor is an important concern for financial agents. To reduce this risk, the concept of derivatives comes into the picture. Derivatives are products whose values are derived from one or more basic variables called bases. These bases can be underlying assets (for example forex, equity, etc), bases or reference rates. For example, wheat farmers may wish to sell their harvest at a future date to eliminate the risk of a change in prices by that date. The transaction in this case would be the derivative, while the spot price of wheat would be the underlying asset.Development of exchange-traded derivatives
Derivatives have probably been around for as long as people have been trading with one another. Forward contracting dates back at least to the 12th century, and may well have been around before then. Merchants entered into contracts with one another for future delivery of specified amount of commodities at specified price. A primary motivation for pre-arranging a buyer or seller for a stock of commodities in early forward contracts was to lessen the possibility that large swings would inhibit marketing the commodity after a harvest.The need for a derivatives market
The derivatives market performs a number of economic functions:
Forwards: A forward contract is a customized contract between two entities, where settlement takes place on a specific date in the future at today’s pre-agreed price.
Futures: A futures contract is an agreement between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a certain time in the future at a certain price. Futures contracts are special types of forward contracts in the sense that the former are standardized exchange-traded contracts
Options: Options are of two types - calls and puts. Calls give the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy a given quantity of the underlying asset, at a given price on or before a given future date. Puts give the buyer the right, but not the obligation to sell a given quantity of the underlying asset at a given price on or before a given date.
Warrants: Options generally have lives of upto one year, the majority of options traded on options exchanges having a maximum maturity of nine months. Longer-dated options are called warrants and are generally traded over-the-counter.
LEAPS: The acronym LEAPS means Long-Term Equity Anticipation Securities. These are options having a maturity of upto three years.
Baskets: Basket options are options on portfolios of underlying assets. The underlying asset is usually a moving average or a basket of assets. Equity index options are a form of basket options.
Swaps: Swaps are private agreements between two parties to exchange cash flows in the future according to a prearranged formula. They can be regarded as portfolios of forward contracts. The two commonly used swaps are :
Swaptions: Swaptions are options to buy or sell a swap that will become operative at the expiry of the options. Thus a swaption is an option on a forward swap. Rather than have calls and puts, the swaptions market has receiver swaptions and payer swaptions. A receiver swaption is an option to receive fixed and pay floating. A payer swaption is an option to pay fixed and receive floating.