Fixed exchange rate was in existence under the Bretton Woods system.
Financial derivatives came into the spotlight, when during the post- 1970
period, the US announced its decision to give up gold- dollar parity, the basic king pin of the
Bretton Wood System of fixed exchange rates. With the dismantling of this system in 1971,
exchange rates couldn’t be kept fixed. Interest rates became more volatile due to high
employment and inflation rates. Less developed countries like India opened up their
economies and allowed prices to vary with market conditions. Price fluctuations made it
almost impossible for the corporate sector to estimate future production costs and revenues.
The derivatives provided an effective tool to the problem of risk and uncertainty due to
fluctuations in interest rates, exchange rates, stock market prices and the other underlying
assets. The derivative markets have become an integral part of modern financial system in
less than three decades of their emergence. This paper describes the evolution of Indian
derivatives market, trading mechanism in its various securities, the various unsolved issues
and the future prospects of the derivatives market.
The International Monetary Fund (2001) defines derivatives as “financial instruments that are
linked to a specific financial instrument or indicator or commodity and through which
specific risks can be traded in financial markets in their own right. The value of a financial
derivative derives from the price of an underlying item, such as an asset or index. Unlike debt
securities, no principal is advanced to be repaid and no investment income accrues.”
A Hedger is a trader who enters the derivative market to reduce a pre- existing risk. In India,
most derivatives users describe themselves as hedgers (Fitch Ratings, 2004) and Indian laws
generally require the use of derivatives for hedging purposes only.
Speculators, the next participant in the derivative market, buy and sell derivatives to book
the profit and not to reduce their risk. They wish to take a position in the market by betting on
future price movement of an asset. Speculators are attracted to exchange traded derivative
products because of their high liquidity, high leverage, low impact cost, low transaction cost
and default risk behavior. Futures and options both add to the potential gain and losses of the
speculative venture. It is the speculators who keep the market going because they bear the
risks, which no one else is willing to bear.
The third participant, Arbitrageur is basically risk-averse and enters into the contracts,
having the potential to earn riskless profits. It is possible for an arbitrageur to have riskless
profits by buying in one market and simultaneously selling in another, when markets are
imperfect (long in one market and short in another market). Arbitrageurs always look out for
such price differences. Arbitrageurs fetch enormous liquidity to the products which are
exchanges traded. The liquidity in-turn results in better price discovery, lesser market
manipulation and lesser cost of transaction.
A Futures Contract is a standardized contract, traded on a futures exchange,
to buy or sell a certain underlying instrument at a certain date in the future, at a pre-set price.
The future date is called the delivery date or final settlement date. The pre-set price is called
the futures price. The price of the underlying asset on the delivery date is called the
settlement price. The futures price, naturally, converges towards the settlement price on the
delivery date”. Types of Futures which are as follows:
Foreign Exchange Futures
Stock Index Futures
Interest Rate Futures
X forward contract or simply a forward is a contract between two parties to buy or sell an asset
at a certain future date for a certain price that is pre-decided on the date of the contract. The
future date is referred to as expiry date and the pre-decided price is referred to as Forward
Price. It may be noted that Forwards are private contracts and their terms are determined by
the parties involved.
X forward is thus an agreement between two parties in which one party, the buyer, enters into
an agreement with the other party, the seller that he would buy from the seller an underlying
asset on the expiry date at the forward price. Therefore, it is a commitment by both the parties
to engage in a transaction at a later date with the price set in advance. This is different from a
spot market contract, which involves immediate payment and immediate transfer of asset.
Forward contracts are traded only in Over the Counter (OTC) market and not in stock
exchanges. OTC market is a private market where individuals/institutions can trade through
negotiations on a one to one basis. When a forward contract expires, there are two alternate
arrangements possible to settle the obligation of the parties: physical settlement and cash
settlement. Both types of settlements happen on the expiry date and are given below.
An Options Contract is the right, but not the obligation, to buy (for a call
option) or sell (for a put option) a specific amount of a given stock, commodity, currency,
index, or debt, at a specified price (the strike price) during a specified period of time. For
stock options, the amount is usually 100 shares. Each option contract has a buyer, called the
holder, and a seller, known as the writer. If the option contract is exercised, the writer is
responsible for fulfilling the terms of the contract. For the holder, the potential loss is limited
to the price paid to acquire the option. When an option is not exercised, it expires. No shares
change hands and the money spent to purchase the option is lost. For the buyer/holder, the
upside is unlimited. For the writer, the potential loss is unlimited and the profits are just
limited to the amount of option premium.
There are two types of options—call options and put options—which are explained below.
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.
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.
“A swap is a derivative product, where two counterparties exchange one
stream of cash flows against another stream. These streams are called the legs of the swap.
The cash flows are calculated over a notional principal amount. The notional amount
typically does not change hands and it is simply used to calculate payments. Swaps are often
used to hedge certain risks, for instance interest rate risk. Another use is speculation”. There
are two basic kinds of swaps: Currency Swaps and Interest Rate Swaps