Financial derivatives are financial instruments or contracts whose prices are derived from underlying assets or indices. It allows for the transfer of risk from one party to another and provides an opportunity for investors to make a profit without actually owning the underlying asset.
Types of financial derivatives
There are various types of financial derivatives, but the most commonly traded are:
Futures contracts – an agreement to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price and time in the future
Options contracts – an agreement that gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price and time in the future
Swaps – an agreement between two parties to exchange financial instruments or cash flows based on a predetermined set of rules
Why use financial derivatives?
Financial derivatives are commonly used for hedging, speculation, and arbitrage.
Hedging – investors use derivatives to reduce their exposure to risk by offsetting potential losses with gains from the derivative contract.
Speculation – investors use derivatives to make a profit by taking a position on the future price of an underlying asset.
Arbitrage – investors use derivatives to take advantage of price discrepancies between different markets or between an asset and its derivative.
Risks of financial derivatives
While financial derivatives provide opportunities for investors, they also come with risks that should be considered:
Counterparty risk – the risk that the other party in the derivative contract will not fulfill their obligation.
Liquidity risk – the risk that the market for the derivative contract is illiquid or difficult to exit.
Market risk – the risk that the underlying asset or index on which the derivative is based experiences price volatility.
It is important to understand the risks and benefits of financial derivatives before investing.
Financial derivatives play a significant role in financial markets and can be used for various purposes. However, they also come with risks that should not be ignored. Understanding how they work and being aware of associated risks can be key to successful investing.