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What Is Hedging?

The best way to understand hedging is to think of it as insurance. When people decide to hedge, they are insuring themselves against a negative event. This doesn't prevent a negative event from happening, but if it does happen and you're properly hedged, the impact of the event is reduced. So, hedging occurs almost everywhere, and we see it everyday. For example, if you buy house insurance, you are hedging yourself against fires, break-ins or other unforeseen disasters.

Portfolio managers, individual investors and corporations use hedging techniques to reduce their exposure to various risks. In financial markets, however, hedging becomes more complicated than simply paying an insurance company a fee every year. Hedging against investment risk means strategically using instruments in the market to offset the risk of any adverse price movements. In other words, investors hedge one investment by making another.

Technically, to hedge you would invest in two securities with negative correlations. Of course, nothing in this world is free, so you still have to pay for this type of insurance in one form or another.

Although some of us may fantasize about a world where profit potentials are limitless but also risk free, hedging can't help us escape the hard reality of the risk-return tradeoff. A reduction in risk will always mean a reduction in potential profits. So, hedging, for the most part, is a technique not by which you will make money but by which you can reduce potential loss. If the investment you are hedging against makes money, you will have typically reduced the profit that you could have made, and if the investment loses money, your hedge, if successful, will reduce that loss.

Hedging techniques generally involve the use of complicated financial instruments known as derivatives, the two most common of which are options and futures.

Definition of 'Derivative'A security whose price is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is merely a contract between two or more parties. Its value is determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset. The most common underlying assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates and market indexes. Most derivatives are characterized by high leverage.|

Investopedia explains 'Derivative'
Futures contracts, forward contracts, options and swaps are the most common types of derivatives. Derivatives are contracts and can be used as an underlying asset. There are even derivatives based on weather data, such as the amount of rain or the number of sunny days in a particular region.

Derivatives are generally used as an instrument to hedge risk, but can also be used for speculative purposes. For example, a European investor purchasing shares of an American company off of an American exchange (using U.S. dollars to do so) would be exposed to exchange-rate risk while holding that stock. To hedge this risk, the investor could purchase currency futures to lock in a specified exchange rate for the future stock sale and currency conversion back into Euros.

1- Forward contracts
2- Future contract
3-

Definition of 'Forward Contract'
A cash market transaction in which delivery of the commodity is deferred until after the contract has been made. Although the delivery is made in the future, the price is determined on the initial trade date.

Most forward contracts don't have standards and aren't traded on exchanges. A farmer would use a forward contract to "lock-in" a price for his grain for the upcoming fall harvest

Definition of 'Futures'
A financial contract obligating the buyer to purchase an asset (or the seller to sell an asset), such as a physical commodity or a financial instrument, at a predetermined future date and price. Futures contracts detail the quality and quantity of the underlying asset; they are standardized to facilitate trading on a futures exchange. Some...
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