How do financial derivatives work

how do financial derivatives work

Derivative Security


An asset that derives its value from another asset. For example, a call option on the stock of Coca-Cola is a derivative security that obtains value from the shares of Coca-Cola that can be purchased with the call option. Call options, put options, convertible bonds, futures contracts, and convertible preferred stock are examples of derivatives. A derivative can be either a risky or low-risk investment, depending upon the type of derivative and how it is used. See also underlying asset .


Derivatives are financial products, such as futures contracts, options, and mortgage-backed securities. Most of derivatives' value is based on the value of an underlying security, commodity, or other financial instrument.

For example, the changing value of a crude oil futures contract depends primarily on the upward or downward movement of oil prices.

An equity option's value is determined by the relationship between its strike price and the value of the underlying stock, the time until expiration, and the stock's volatility.

Certain investors, called hedgers, are interested in the underlying instrument. For example, a baking company might buy wheat futures to help estimate the cost of producing its bread in the months to come.

Other investors, called speculators, are concerned with the profit to be made by buying and selling the

contract at the most opportune time. Listed derivatives are traded on organized exchanges or markets. Other derivatives are traded over-the-counter (OTC) and in private transactions.


What Does Derivative Mean?

In finance, a security whose price is dependent on or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is merely a contract between two or more parties, with a value determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset, which could be 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. Since derivatives are contracts, almost anything can be used as a derivative's 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 generally are used to hedge risk but also can be used for speculative purposes. For example, a European investor purchasing shares of an American company on a foreign exchange (using American dollars to do so) would be exposed to exchange-rate risk while holding that stock. To hedge that risk, the investor could purchase currency futures to lock in a specified exchange rate for the future stock sale and conversion back into the foreign currency.


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