Economics of the Financial System
Show how transactions in derivatives can be used to either hedge risk or to open speculative positions. Derivatives have become popular in response to the increasing volatility and complexity of financial markets. A diverse range of new financial products have been created to enable market participants to handle the risks arising from trade in securities and to speculate on future expected movements in securities prices, without direct trade in the assets themselves. Derivative contract creates a promise to deliver or trade an underlying product at some time in the future. The contract gives one party a claim on an underlying asset or cash value of the asset, at a fixed date in the future. The other party is contractually bound to meet the corresponding liabilities. Financial derivatives are traded on organized market such as LIFFE (London International Financial Futures Exchange) and through the intermediation of the clearing house system, there is more flexibility of exchange, and the risk of credit default is reduced. The two parties need not know each other they only have to satisfy the exchange that they are creditworthy to transact. The initial purpose of derivative contracts was to allow traders to hedge risk which they faced in the cash market. Two of the most popular derivative instruments are financial futures and options. Financial futures commit the parties to buy or sell underlying assets at set prices on an agreed future date. The benefit of financial futures in its most basic form can be exemplified by a poultry farmer who is worried about the risk of price fluctuations in eggs for instance. He knows in 8 months he will sell a certain quantity of eggs. He can hedge against this risk by selling (going short) an eight month “future” in eggs. The “future” will consist of a standard amount of chicken to be exchanged in eight months, at an agreed fixed price on the day the “future” is sold. The agent buying the eggs goes long, and is bound by contract to purchase the eggs in 8 months. A premium reflecting the risk of price fluctuation would be charged by the agent. If all goes well, the rate of profit on future contract can be very high but not without considerable risk. Investing in securities expose investors to many risks, the most important is the risk of an unexpected fall in the value of an investment. Likewise, not investing also exposes them to opportunity risk; the risk that future prices of portfolio of asset would rise thereby making it more expensive to acquire. Derivatives market offer investors an efficient way of managing some of the risks incurred in investment by purchasing derivative instruments. This allows them to attain desired adjustment to risk without having to trade in the underlying securities and sometimes gaining a profit. Hedging has become increasing popular as it helps investors to protect against the future value of their portfolio. An investor with a portfolio of cash, bonds and shares can take out a hedge to protect the future sale price of her portfolio by selling a corresponding amount of the appropriate futures contract. Risk could be hedged through options or future contracts. Hedging through future contracts involves taking a position in financial futures contract that will incur a gain to offset a loss in their existing investment portfolio. For example, Amana Mutual Fund manages a large portfolio of stocks. The portfolio manager speculates the prices of stock will fall over the coming month but will increase again after that time. They would like to hedge their portfolio against a loss over that period. A stock index futures contract with a month to settlement date is offered on the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index at an index level of 20,000. Amana chooses to sell a futures contract on this index because it reckons that this index is...
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