Trading in Currency Futures

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Trading in Currency Futures
Futures or futures contracts are derivatives bought or sold on a futures exchange. Futures are contracts to buy or sell a particular commodity at a specified price on a certain date in the future. The underlying asset could be commodities, energy, currencies, government bonds or other financial instruments. One of the assets frequently traded is currency. Let's take a closer look at the features of using this asset in futures trading. What is a currency future? A currency future, also knows as foreign exchange future or FX future, is a futures contract to exchange one currency for another at a specified date in the future at a price (exchange rate) that is fixed on the purchase date. The currency futures market is growing in popularity, as the main participants of this organized market comprise bankers, importers, exporters, multinational corporations and private speculators. How are they traded? Currency futures are traded according to the rules and regulations that are drawn by the futures exchanges. The trading can be done either on the floors of these futures exchanges or these exchanges can facilitate electronic trading for its members. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is the world's largest and most successful exchange for trading in currency futures, with offices in Chicago, New York, Washington, London and Tokyo. What are the features of the contract? Like all futures contracts, currency futures are standardized contracts too. The futures exchange sets the contract specifications. However, only the exchange rate can be negotiated by the buyers and sellers. The remaining specifications, such as defining the underlying currency, trading unit and delivery month, are set by the futures exchange. How does trading in currency benefit an investor? The following are the benefits of currency trading in India:
• • • •

Easy Accessibility - Small investors would get an easy access to currency futures trading on the popular exchanges Easy Affordability - Margins are very low and the contract size is very small Low Transaction Cost - As opposed to the high pay-out of commissions in overseas forex trading, currency futures carries low costs for investors Transparency - It is possible for you to verify trade details on NSE if you have a doubt that the broker has tried to cheat you

Counter-party default risk - All the trades done on the recognized exchanges are guaranteed by the clearing corporations and hence it eliminates the risks associated with counter party default. NSCCL (National Securities Clearing Corporation Limited) carries out all the notation, clearing and settlement process of currency futures trading Standardized Contracts - Exchange Traded currency futures are standardized in respect of lot size ($1000) and maturity (12 monthly contracts). Retail investors with their limited resources would find it tremendously beneficial to take positions in standardised USD INR futures contracts

Moreover, the currency futures market is used by some companies for hedging. These companies either purchase currency futures for their future payables, or sell the futures on currencies for their future receipts. Speculators may also buy or sell futures on a foreign currency as a protection against the strengthening or weakening of the US dollar. So, speculators may be able to earn profit from the rise or fall of these exchange rates. What are the risks of trading in Currency Futures? Trading in Currency futures or forex trading comes with high levels of risk. Even a small adverse fluctuation in the exchange rate may result in loss of the entire deposit of someone trading in currency. Only people having an in-depth knowledge of the working of this market or have done a thorough homework about the risks involved are advised to trade in this market. By - an online marketplace for your personal loan and home loan needs. September 20th, 2008, 12:39 AM Currency Futures: Advantages and benefits Currency Futures trading entered its second week in India and already proved to be a success within this short time period. However, common man is yet to get acclimatized with Currency Futures in general and particularly with advantages it provides. For a common-man in India, question of handling forex rarely arose in the past until as late as early 21st Century. Indian economy has grown rapidly during the last few years. India is one of the top global economies. Nowadays it is common to find Indian residents often looking out for hedging currency risks. Unlike in the past, a large population of India (common-man) earns huge amount of foreign exchange from overseas. INR has seen huge fluctuations of around 10% in its price against USD in a span of less

than one year. Indian financial markets offered very few options such as currency forwards, swaps and options (traded on OTC - over the counter market) to Indian investors for hedging their currency risks. Besides, cash Forex or OTC Forex trading is not easily accessible to small investors. Even more, it was suitable to only large participants due to various factors that acted as the deterrent to retail investors. NSE (National Stock Exchange of India) was the first recognised exchange to launch currency futures trading in India. Currency futures offer unique advantages over overseas forex trading to retail investors and small traders. Advantages of Currency Futures EASY ACCESSIBILITY: Currency future is being offered on the recognised exchanges in India. NSE (National Stock Exchange) has already commenced currency futures trading. Two more leading exchanges BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) and MCX (MultiCommodity Exchange) Stock Exchange would very soon commence currency futures trading. Small investors would get an easy access to currency futures trading on the popular exchanges. It is as easy as trading in a blue chip stock on any of your favorite exhange. EASY AFFORDABILITY: Margins are very low and the contract size is very small. As per the specification of NSE USD-INR currency future contract, the lot size is 1000$. Margin is 1.75%. Don’t you think that it was never so easy and affordable for any retail investor to take a call on Indian Rupee by taking position in currency futures? LOW TRANSACTION COSTS: When you trade in INT currency futures on NSE in India, you have to pay a small amount of brokerage fees and statutory duties and taxes. In overseas forex trading you have to pay commissions to the banks or foreign exchange agents in the form of spread. Spread is the difference in the buy/sell price over the reference rate, which can be very high. TRANSPERANCY: It is possible for you to verify trade details on NSE if you have a doubt that the broker has tried to cheat you. EFFICIENT PRICE DISCOVERY: Internationally it has been established that currency future is a better and efficient mechanism for price discovery. With its state of the art automated electronic trading system where the orders are executed on the basis of pricetime priority, NSE is well poised to offer efficient price discovery. COUNTER-PARTY DEFAULT RISKS: All the trades done on the recognized exchanges are guaranteed by the clearing corporations and hence it eliminates the risks associated with counter party default. NSCCL (National Securities Clearing Corporation Limited) carries out all the novation, clearing and settlement process of currency futures trading.

STANDARDIZED CONTRACTS: Exchange Traded currency futures are standarizsed in respect of lot size (1000$) and maturity (12 monthly contracts). Retail investors with their limited resources would find it tremendously beneficial to take positions in standardised USD INR futures contracts.

Financial Derivatives Market and its Development in India
Financial markets are, by nature, extremely volatile and hence the risk factor is an important concern for financial agents. To reduce this risk, the concept of derivatives comes into the picture. Derivatives are products whose values are derived from one or more basic variables called bases. These bases can be underlying assets (for example forex, equity, etc), bases or reference rates. For example, wheat farmers may wish to sell their harvest at a future date to eliminate the risk of a change in prices by that date. The transaction in this case would be the derivative, while the spot price of wheat would be the underlying asset. Development of exchange-traded derivatives Derivatives have probably been around for as long as people have been trading with one another. Forward contracting dates back at least to the 12th century, and may well have been around before then. Merchants entered into contracts with one another for future delivery of specified amount of commodities at specified price. A primary motivation for pre-arranging a buyer or seller for a stock of commodities in early forward contracts was to lessen the possibility that large swings would inhibit marketing the commodity after a harvest. The need for a derivatives market The derivatives market performs a number of economic functions: 1. They help in transferring risks from risk averse people to risk oriented people 2. They help in the discovery of future as well as current prices 3. They catalyze entrepreneurial activity 4. They increase the volume traded in markets because of participation of risk averse people in greater numbers 5. They increase savings and investment in the long run The participants in a derivatives market • Hedgers use futures or options markets to reduce or eliminate the risk associated with price of an asset. • Speculators use futures and options contracts to get extra leverage in betting on future movements in the price of an asset. They can increase both the potential gains and potential losses by usage of derivatives in a speculative venture. • Arbitrageurs are in business to take advantage of a discrepancy between prices in two different markets. If, for example, they see the futures price of an asset getting out of line with the cash price, they will take offsetting positions in the two markets to lock in a profit. Types of Derivatives Forwards: A forward contract is a customized contract between two entities, where

settlement takes place on a specific date in the future at today’s pre-agreed price. Futures: A futures contract is an agreement between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a certain time in the future at a certain price. Futures contracts are special types of forward contracts in the sense that the former are standardized exchange-traded contracts Options: Options are of two types - calls and puts. Calls give the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy a given quantity of the underlying asset, at a given price on or before a given future date. Puts give the buyer the right, but not the obligation to sell a given quantity of the underlying asset at a given price on or before a given date. Warrants: Options generally have lives of upto one year, the majority of options traded on options exchanges having a maximum maturity of nine months. Longer-dated options are called warrants and are generally traded over-the-counter. LEAPS: The acronym LEAPS means Long-Term Equity Anticipation Securities. These are options having a maturity of upto three years. Baskets: Basket options are options on portfolios of underlying assets. The underlying asset is usually a moving average or a basket of assets. Equity index options are a form of basket options. Swaps: Swaps are private agreements between two parties to exchange cash flows in the future according to a prearranged formula. They can be regarded as portfolios of forward contracts. The two commonly used swaps are : • Interest rate swaps: These entail swapping only the interest related cash flows between the parties in the same currency. • Currency swaps: These entail swapping both principal and interest between the parties, with the cashflows in one direction being in a different currency than those in the opposite direction. Swaptions: Swaptions are options to buy or sell a swap that will become operative at the expiry of the options. Thus a swaption is an option on a forward swap. Rather than have calls and puts, the swaptions market has receiver swaptions and payer swaptions. A receiver swaption is an option to receive fixed and pay floating. A payer swaption is an option to pay fixed and receive floating. Table 1 The global derivatives industry: Outstanding contracts, (in $ billion) 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Exchange traded instruments 9283 10018 12403 13932 13522 14302 Interest rate futures and options 8618 9257 11221 12643 11669 12626 Currency futures and options 154 171 161 81 59 96 Stock Index futures and options 511 591 1021 1208 1793 1580 Some OTC instruments 17713 25453 29035 80317 88201 95199 Interest rate swaps and options 16515 23894 27211 44259 53316 58244 Currency swaps and options 1197 1560 1824 5948 4751 5532 Other instruments - - - 30110 30134 31423 Total 26996 35471 41438 94249 101723 109501
Source: Bank for International Settlements
(OTC : Over The Counter traded instruments, discussed later.)

Factors driving the growth of financial derivatives

1. Increased volatility in asset prices in financial markets, 2. Increased integration of national financial markets with the international markets, 3. Marked improvement in communication facilities and sharp decline in their costs, 4. Development of more sophisticated risk management tools, providing economic agents a wider choice of risk management strategies, and 5. Innovations in the derivatives markets, which optimally combine the risks and returns over a large number of financial assets leading to higher returns, reduced risk as well as transactions costs as compared to individual financial assets. Table 2 Turnover in derivatives contracts traded on exchanges, (in US$ trillion) 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Interest rate futures 177.3 271.9 266.4 253.6 247.8 296.6 263.8 292.3 Interest rate options 32.8 46.7 43.3 41 48.6 55.8 45.6 47.5 Currency futures 2.8 3.3 3.2 2.6 2.7 2.5 2.6 2.4 Currency options 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.3 0.9 0.5 0.3 0.2 Stock market index futures 7.1 9.4 10.6 12.9 16.4 19.6 21.7 22.7 Stock market index options 6.3 8 9.3 10.2 13.1 14.7 15.7 18.7 Total 227.7 340.7 334.1 321.6 356.5 389.7 349.7 383.8
Source: Bank for International Settlements

Development of derivatives market in India The first step towards introduction of derivatives trading in India was the promulgation of the Securities Laws(Amendment) Ordinance, 1995, which withdrew the prohibition on options in securities. The market for derivatives, however, did not take off, as there was no regulatory framework to govern trading of derivatives. SEBI set up a 24–member committee under the Chairmanship of Dr.L.C.Gupta on November 18, 1996 to develop appropriate regulatory framework for derivatives trading in India. The committee submitted its report on March 17, 1998 prescribing necessary pre–conditions for introduction of derivatives trading in India. The committee recommended that derivatives should be declared as ‘securities’ so that regulatory framework applicable to trading of ‘securities’ could also govern trading of securities. SEBI also set up a group in June 1998 under the Chairmanship of Prof.J.R.Varma, to recommend measures for risk containment in derivatives market in India. The report, which was submitted in October 1998, worked out the operational details of margining system, methodology for charging initial margins, broker net worth, deposit requirement and real–time monitoring requirements. The Securities Contract Regulation Act (SCRA) was amended in December 1999 to include derivatives within the ambit of ‘securities’ and the regulatory framework was developed for governing derivatives trading. The act also made it clear that derivatives shall be legal and valid only if such contracts are traded on a recognized stock exchange, thus precluding OTC derivatives. The government also rescinded in March 2000, the three– decade old notification, which prohibited forward trading in securities. Derivatives trading commenced in India in June 2000 after SEBI granted the final approval to this effect in May 2001. SEBI permitted the derivative segments of two stock exchanges, NSE and BSE, and their clearing house/corporation to commence trading and

settlement in approved derivatives contracts. To begin with, SEBI approved trading in index futures contracts based on S&P CNX Nifty and BSE–30(Sensex) index. This was followed by approval for trading in options based on these two indexes and options on individual securities. The trading in BSE Sensex options commenced on June 4, 2001 and the trading in options on individual securities commenced in July 2001. Futures contracts on individual stocks were launched in November 2001. The derivatives trading on NSE commenced with S&P CNX Nifty Index futures on June 12, 2000. The trading in index options commenced on June 4, 2001 and trading in options on individual securities commenced on July 2, 2001. Single stock futures were launched on November 9, 2001. The index futures and options contract on NSE are based on S&P CNX Trading and settlement in derivative contracts is done in accordance with the rules, byelaws, and regulations of the respective exchanges and their clearing house/corporation duly approved by SEBI and notified in the official gazette. Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) are permitted to trade in all Exchange traded derivative products. The following are some observations based on the trading statistics provided in the NSE report on the futures and options (F&O): • Single-stock futures continue to account for a sizable proportion of the F&O segment. It constituted 70 per cent of the total turnover during June 2002. A primary reason attributed to this phenomenon is that traders are comfortable with single-stock futures than equity options, as the former closely resembles the erstwhile badla system. • On relative terms, volumes in the index options segment continues to remain poor. This may be due to the low volatility of the spot index. Typically, options are considered more valuable when the volatility of the underlying (in this case, the index) is high. A related issue is that brokers do not earn high commissions by recommending index options to their clients, because low volatility leads to higher waiting time for round-trips. • Put volumes in the index options and equity options segment have increased since January 2002. The call-put volumes in index options have decreased from 2.86 in January 2002 to 1.32 in June. The fall in call-put volumes ratio suggests that the traders are increasingly becoming pessimistic on the market. • Farther month futures contracts are still not actively traded. Trading in equity options on most stocks for even the next month was non-existent. • Daily option price variations suggest that traders use the F&O segment as a less risky alternative (read substitute) to generate profits from the stock price movements. The fact that the option premiums tail intra-day stock prices is evidence to this. Calls on Satyam fall, while puts rise when Satyam falls intra-day. If calls and puts are not looked as just substitutes for spot trading, the intra-day stock price variations should not have a one-to-one impact on the option premiums. Table 3 Business growth of futures and options market: NSE Turnover( Month Index futures Stock futures Index options Stock options Total Jun-00 35 - - - 35

Jul-00 108 - - - 108 Aug-00 90 - - - 90 Sep-00 119 - - - 119 Oct-00 153 - - - 153 Nov-00 247 - - - 247 Dec-00 237 - - - 237 01-Jan 471 - - - 471 01-Feb 524 - - - 524 01-Mar 381 - - - 381 01-Apr 292 - - - 292 01-May 230 - - - 230 01-Jun 590 - 196 - 785 01-Jul 1309 - 326 396 2031 01-Aug 1305 - 284 1107 2696 01-Sep 2857 - 559 2012 5281 01-Oct 2485 - 559 2433 5477 01-Nov 2484 2811 455 3010 8760 01-Dec 2339 7515 405 2660 12919 02-Jan 2660 13261 338 5089 21348 02-Feb 2747 13939 430 4499 21616 02-Mar 2185 13989 360 3957 20490 2001-02 21482 51516 3766 25163 101925
Source: National Stock Exchange

Instruments available in India Financial derivative instruments: The National stock Exchange (NSE) has the following derivative products: Products Index Futures Index Options Futures on Individual Securities Options on Individual Securities Underlying Instrument S&P CNX Nifty S&P CNX Nifty 30 securities stipulated by SEBI 30 securities stipulated by SEBI Type European American Trading Cycle maximum of 3month trading cycle. At any point in time, there will be 3 contracts available :

1) near month, 2) mid month & 3) far month duration Same as index futures Same as index futures Same as index futures Expiry Day Last Thursday of the expiry month Same as index futures Same as index futures Same as index futures Contract Size Permitted lot size is 200 & multiples thereof Same as index futures As stipulated by NSE (not less than Rs.2 lacs) As stipulated by NSE (not less than Rs.2 lacs) Price Steps Re.0.05 Re.0.05 Base PriceFirst day of trading previous day closing Nifty value Theoretical value of the options contract arrived at based on BlackScholes model previous day closing value of underlying security Same as Index options Base Price-

Subsequent Daily settlement price daily close price Daily settlement price Same as Index options Price Bands Operating ranges are kept at + 10 % Operating ranges for are kept at 99% of the base price Operating ranges are kept at + 20 % Operating ranges for are kept at 99% of the base price Quantity Freeze 20,000 units or greater 20,000 units or greater Lower of 1% of marketwide position limit stipulated for open positions or Rs.5 crores Same as individual futures BSE also offers similar products in the derivatives segment. Commodity Derivatives Futures contracts in pepper, turmeric, gur (jaggery), hessian (jute fabric), jute sacking, castor seed, potato, coffee, cotton, and soybean and its derivatives are traded in 18 commodity exchanges located in various parts of the country. Futures trading in other edible oils, oilseeds and oil cakes have been permitted. Trading in futures in the new commodities, especially in edible oils, is expected to commence in the near future. The sugar industry is exploring the merits of trading sugar futures contracts. The policy initiatives and the modernisation programme include extensive training, structuring a reliable clearinghouse, establishment of a system of warehouse receipts, and the thrust towards the establishment of a national commodity exchange. The Government of India has constituted a committee to explore and evaluate issues pertinent to the establishment and funding of the proposed national commodity exchange for the

nationwide trading of commodity futures contracts, and the other institutions and institutional processes such as warehousing and clearinghouses. With commodity futures, delivery is best effected using warehouse receipts (which are like dematerialised securities). Warehousing functions have enabled viable exchanges to augment their strengths in contract design and trading. The viability of the national commodity exchange is predicated on the reliability of the warehousing functions. The programme for establishing a system of warehouse receipts is in progress. The Coffee Futures Exchange India (COFEI) has operated a system of warehouse receipts since 1998 Exchange-traded vs. OTC (Over The Counter) derivatives markets The OTC derivatives markets have witnessed rather sharp growth over the last few years, which has accompanied the modernization of commercial and investment banking and globalisation of financial activities. The recent developments in information technology have contributed to a great extent to these developments. While both exchange-traded and OTC derivative contracts offer many benefits, the former have rigid structures compared to the latter. It has been widely discussed that the highly leveraged institutions and their OTC derivative positions were the main cause of turbulence in financial markets in 1998. These episodes of turbulence revealed the risks posed to market stability originating in features of OTC derivative instruments and markets. The OTC derivatives markets have the following features compared to exchange-traded derivatives: 1. The management of counter-party (credit) risk is decentralized and located within individual institutions, 2. There are no formal centralized limits on individual positions, leverage, or margining, 3. There are no formal rules for risk and burden-sharing, 4. There are no formal rules or mechanisms for ensuring market stability and integrity, and for safeguarding the collective interests of market participants, and 5. The OTC contracts are generally not regulated by a regulatory authority and the exchange’s self-regulatory organization, although they are affected indirectly by national legal systems, banking supervision and market surveillance. Accounting of Derivatives : The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has issued guidance notes on accounting of index futures contracts from the view point of parties who enter into such futures contracts as buyers or sellers. For other parties involved in the trading process, like brokers, trading members, clearing members and clearing corporations, a trade in equity index futures is similar to a trade in, say shares, and does not pose any peculiar accounting problems

Taxation The income-tax Act does not have any specific provision regarding taxability from derivatives.The only provisions which have an indirect bearing on derivative transactions are sections 73(1) and 43(5). Section 73(1) provides that any loss, computed in respect of a speculative business carried on by the assessee, shall not be set off except against profits and gains, if any, of speculative business. In the absence of a specific provision, it is apprehended that the derivatives contracts, particularly the index futures which are essentially cash-settled, may be construed as speculative transactions and therefore the losses, if any, will not be eligible for set off against other income of the assessee and will be carried forward and set off against speculative income only up to a maximum of eight years .As a result an investor’s losses or profits out of derivatives even though they are of hedging nature in real sense, are treated as speculative and can be set off only against speculative income. Anuj Thakur Rahul Karkun Sameer Kalra References: National Stock Exchange website Business Line July 27,2002 Bombay Stock Exchange website DSP Merrill Lynch website 'Options, Futures, And Other /derivatives' - John C. Hull

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