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Derivatives

Derivative is a product whose value is derived from the value of one or more basic variables, called underlying. The underlying asset can be equity, debt, index, foreign exchange (forex), commodity or any other asset. Derivative products are used as hedging devices against fluctuations in the value of the underlying assets.  

 Popularly, derivatives are classified into futures and options:

1) Futures

 A future contract is an agreement between two parties in which the buyer agrees to buy an underlying asset from the seller, at a future date at a price that is agreed upon today. A futures contract is not a private transaction but gets traded on a recognized stock exchange. In addition, a futures contract is standardized by the exchange. All the terms, other than the price, are set by the stock exchange. Also, both buyer and seller of the futures contracts are protected against the counter party risk by an entity called the Clearing Corporation. The Clearing Corporation provides this guarantee to ensure that the buyer or the seller of a futures contract does not suffer as a result of the counter party defaulting on its obligation. In case one of the parties defaults, the Clearing Corporation steps in to fulfill the obligation of this party, so that the other party does not suffer due to non-fulfillment of the contract. To be able to guarantee the fulfillment of the obligations under the contract, the Clearing Corporation holds an amount as a security from both the parties. This amount is called the Margin money and can be in the form of cash or other financial assets.

 2) Options

 An option is a derivative contract between a buyer and a seller, where one party (say First Party) gives to the other (say Second Party) the right, but not the obligation, to buy from (or sell to) the First Party the underlying asset on or before a specific day at an agreed-upon price. In return for granting the option, the party granting the option collects a payment from the other party. This payment collected is called the “premium” or price of the option. The right to buy or sell is held by the “option buyer” (also called the option holder); the party granting the right is t he “option seller” or “option writer”. Unlike forwards and futures contracts, options require a cash payment (called the premium) upfront from the option buyer to the option seller. This payment is called option premium or option price. Options can be traded either on the stock exchange or in over the counter (OTC) markets. Options traded on the exchanges are backed by the Clearing Corporation thereby minimizing the risk arising due to default by the counter parties involved. Options traded in the OTC market however are not backed by the Clearing Corporation.

 

There are two types of options:

2a) Call Option

A call option is an option granting the right to the buyer of the option to buy the underlying asset on a specific day at an agreed upon price, but not the obligation to do so. It is the seller who grants this right to the buyer of the option. It may be noted that the person who has the right to buy the underlying asset is known as the “buyer of the call option”. The price at which the buyer has the right to buy the asset is agreed upon at the time of entering the contract. This price is known as the strike price of the contract (call option strike price in this case). Since the buyer of the call option has the right (but no obligation) to buy the underlying asset, he will exercise his right to buy the underlying asset if and only if the price of the underlying asset in the market is more than the strike price on or before the expiry date of the contract. The buyer of the call option does not have an obligation to buy if he does not want to.

 2b) Put Option

 A put option is a contract granting the right to the buyer of the option to sell the underlying asset on or before a specific day at an agreed upon price, but not the obligation to do so. It is the seller who grants this right to the buyer of the option. The person who has the right to sell the underlying asset is known as the “buyer of the put option”. The price at which the buyer has the right to sell the asset is agreed upon at the time of entering the contract. This price is known as the strike price of the contract (put option strike price in this case). Since the buyer of the put option has the right (but not the obligation) to sell the underlying asset, he will exercise his right to sell the underlying asset if and only if the price of the underlying asset in the market is less than the strike price on or before the expiry date of the contract. The buyer of the put option does not have the obligation to sell if he does not want to.