, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Also, stock index futures and options are known as derivative products because they derive their existence from actual market indices, but have no intrinsic characteristics of their own. In addition to that, one of the reasons some believe they lead to greater market volatility is that huge amounts of securities can be controlled by relatively small amounts of margin or option premiums. One reason derivatives are popular is that they can be transacted off-balance-sheet.


Derivatives are financial instruments whose values depend on the value of other underlying financial instruments. The main types of derivatives are futures, forwards, options and swaps.

The main use of derivatives is to reduce risk for one party. The diverse range of potential underlying assets and pay-off alternatives leads to a wide range of derivatives contracts available to be traded in the market. Derivatives can be based on different types of assets such as commodities, equities (stocks), residential mortgages, commercial real estate loans, bonds, interest rates, exchange rates,

**or indices (such as a stock market index, consumer price index (CPI) — see inflation derivatives — or even an index of weather conditions, or other derivatives). Their performance can determine both the amount and the timing of the pay-offs. Credit derivatives have become an increasingly large part of the derivative market.


A bank may have substantial sums in off-balance sheet accounts, and the distinction between these accounts may not seem obvious. For example, when a bank has a customer who deposits $1 million in a regular bank deposit account, the bank has a $1 million liability. If the customer chooses to transfer the deposit to a money market mutual fund account sponsored by the same bank, the $1 million would not be a liability of the bank, but an amount held in trust for the client (formally as shares or units in a form of collective fund). If the funds are used to purchase stock, the stock is similarly not owned by the bank, and do not appear as an asset or liability of the bank. If the client subsequently sells the stock and deposits the proceeds in a regular bank account, these would now again appear as a liability of the bank (although the same funds held in a brokerage account may or may not be off-balance sheet). However, it’s been argued that the contrary is also feasible.


Off balance sheet (OBS) usually means an asset or debt or financing activity not on the company’s balance sheet. It could involve a lease or a separate subsidiary or a contingent liability such as a letter of credit. It also involves loan commitments, futures, forwards and other derivatives except such derivatives pertaining to equity securities, ESOP, or phantom stock, which usually must be held as reserves in the Long Term Debt section of a Balance Sheet (See Also Backdating Options), when-issued securities (famous in the US)[clarify] and loans sold.


Financial instruments can be categorized by form depending on whether they are cash instruments or derivative instruments:

Alternatively, financial instruments can be categorized by “asset class” depending on whether they are equity based (reflecting ownership of the issuing entity) or debt based (reflecting a loan the investor has made to the issuing entity). If it is debt, it can be further categorised into short term (less than one year) or long term.

Foreign Exchange instruments and transactions are neither debt nor equity based and belong in their own category.


* See chart on this page – very good

Some instruments defy categorization into the above matrix, for example repurchase agreements.


OTC and exchange-traded

Broadly speaking there are two distinct groups of derivative contracts, which are distinguished by the way they are traded in market:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives are contracts that are traded (and privately negotiated) directly between two parties, without going through an exchange or other intermediary. Products such as swaps, forward rate agreements, and exotic options are almost always traded in this way. The OTC derivative market is the largest market for derivatives, and is unregulated. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the total outstanding notional amount is $596 trillion (as of December 2007)[1]. Of this total notional amount, 66% are interest rate contracts, 10% are credit default swaps (CDS), 9% are foreign exchange contracts, 2% are commodity contracts, 1% are equity contracts, and 12% are other. OTC derivatives are largely subject to counterparty risk, as the validity of a contract depends on the counterparty’s solvency and ability to honor its obligations.
  • Exchange-traded derivatives (ETD) are those derivatives products that are traded via specialized derivatives exchanges or other exchanges. A derivatives exchange acts as an intermediary to all related transactions, and takes Initial margin from both sides of the trade to act as a guarantee. The world’s largest[2] derivatives exchanges (by number of transactions) are the Korea Exchange (which lists KOSPI Index Futures & Options), Eurex (which lists a wide range of European products such as interest rate & index products), and CME Group (made up of the 2007 merger of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade and the 2008 acquisition of the New York Mercantile Exchange). According to BIS, the combined turnover in the world’s derivatives exchanges totalled USD 344 trillion during Q4 2005. Some types of derivative instruments also may trade on traditional exchanges. For instance, hybrid instruments such as convertible bonds and/or convertible preferred may be listed on stock or bond exchanges. Also, warrants (or “rights”) may be listed on equity exchanges. Performance Rights, Cash xPRTs and various other instruments that essentially consist of a complex set of options bundled into a simple package are routinely listed on equity exchanges. Like other derivatives, these publicly traded derivatives provide investors access to risk/reward and volatility characteristics that, while related to an underlying commodity, nonetheless are distinctive.

Common derivative contract types

There are three major classes of derivatives:

  1. Futures/Forwards, which are contracts to buy or sell an asset at a specified future date.
  2. Options, which are contracts that give a holder the right to buy or sell an asset at a specified future date.
  3. Swappings, where the two parties agree to exchange cash flows or returns.



CME Group

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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CME Group Inc.
Type Public
Headquarters Chicago, IL, Flag of the United States USA
Key people Craig S. Donohue
Industry Security & Commodity Exchanges
Market cap 19.7 billion USD[1]
Employees 1970[1]
Website www.cme.com

CME Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CME) is the world’s largest futures exchange. CME Group was created July 12, 2007 from the merger between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). On March 17, 2008, it announced its acquisition of NYMEX Holdings, Inc., parent company of the New York Mercantile Exchange, which was formally completed on August 22, 2008.[1]



Other examples of underlying exchangeables are:


Cash flow

The payments between the parties may be determined by:

  • the price of some other, independently traded asset in the future (e.g., a common stock);
  • the level of an independently determined index (e.g., a stock market index or heating-degree-days);
  • the occurrence of some well-specified event (e.g., a company defaulting);
  • an interest rate;
  • an exchange rate;
  • or some other factor.

Some derivatives are the right to buy or sell the underlying security or commodity at some point in the future for a predetermined price. If the price of the underlying security or commodity moves into the right direction, the owner of the derivative makes money; otherwise, they lose money or the derivative becomes worthless. Depending on the terms of the contract, the potential gain or loss on a derivative can be much higher than if they had traded the underlying security or commodity directly.



Market and arbitrage-free prices

Two common measures of value are:

  • Market price, i.e. the price at which traders are willing to buy or sell the contract
  • Arbitrage-free price, meaning that no risk-free profits can be made by trading in these contracts; see rational pricing




Derivatives are often subject to the following criticisms:

Possible large losses

See also: List of trading losses

The use of derivatives can result in large losses due to the use of leverage, or borrowing. Derivatives allow investors to earn large returns from small movements in the underlying asset’s price. However, investors could lose large amounts if the price of the underlying moves against them significantly. There have been several instances of massive losses in derivative markets, such as:

  • The need to recapitalize insurer American International Group (AIG) with $85 billion of debt provided by the US federal government[3]. An AIG subsidiary had lost more than $18 billion over the preceding three quarters on Credit Default Swaps (CDS) it had written.[4] It was reported that the recapitalization was necessary because further losses were foreseeable over the next few quarters.
  • The loss of $7.2 Billion by Société Générale in January 2008 through mis-use of futures contracts.
  • The loss of US$6.4 billion in the failed fund Amaranth Advisors, which was long natural gas in September 2006 when the price plummeted.
  • The bankruptcy of Long-Term Capital Management in 2000.
  • The bankruptcy of Orange County, CA in 1994, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. On December 6, 1994, Orange County declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy, from which it emerged in June 1995. The county lost about $1.6 billion through derivatives trading. Orange County was neither bankrupt nor insolvent at the time; however, because of the strategy the county employed it was unable to generate the cash flows needed to maintain services. Orange County is a good example of what happens when derivatives are used incorrectly and positions liquidated in an unplanned manner; had they not liquidated they would not have lost any money as their positions rebounded.[citation needed] Potentially problematic use of interest-rate derivatives by US municipalities has continued in recent years. See, for example:[5]
  • The Nick Leeson affair in 1994

Counter-party risk

Derivatives (especially swaps) expose investors to counter-party risk.

[ Etc. ]




Common derivative contract types


Here’s an interesting perspective in light of reality that we know today –

“Remember the bankruptcy of Orange County, California, and the Barings Bank due to poor investments in financial derivatives? At that time many policymakers feared more collapsed banks, counties, and countries. Those fears proved unfounded; prudent use, not government regulation, of derivatives headed off further problems. Now, however, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the Federal Reserve, and the Securities and Exchange Commission are debating the merits of new rules for derivatives. But before adopting regulations, policymakers need to separate myths about those financial instruments from reality.”

10 Myths About Financial Derivatives

by Thomas F. Siems

Thomas F. Siems is a senior economist and policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas or the Federal Reserve System.

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Also in this text:

“Most financial derivatives traded today are the “plain vanilla” variety–the simplest form of a financial instrument. But variants on the basic structures have given way to more sophisticated and complex financial derivatives that are much more difficult to measure, manage, and understand. For those instruments, the measurement and control of risks can be far more complicated, creating the increased possibility of unforeseen losses.” – Thomas F. Siems


The largest appeal of derivatives is that they offer some degree of leverage. Leverage is a financial term that refers to the multiplication that happens when a small amount of money is used to control an item of much larger value. A mortgage is the most common form of leverage. For a small amount of money and taking on the obligation of a mortgage, a person gains control of a property of much larger value than the small amount of money that has exchanged hands.

Derivatives offer the same sort of leverage or multiplication as a mortgage. For a small amount of money, the investor can control a much larger value of company stock then would be possible without use of derivatives. This can work both ways, though. If the investor purchasing the derivative is correct, then more money can be made than if the investment had been made directly into the company itself. However, if the investor is wrong, the losses are multiplied instead.


Derivatives made the news in 1995 when rogue trader Nick Leeson single-handedly caused the failure of the Barings bank of England. Nick Leeson was a derivatives trader whose trades did not work out, and due to the enormous leverage of the trades used, the losses became so large that the bank was bankrupt when the results of his trades become due. Warren Buffet, a much revered and very successful investor, has stated in one of his annual reports that he is very much against the use of derivatives and he expects that they will lead to eventual failure for anyone who uses them. In spite of all this negative press, derivatives have long been a normal part of business and investing and are likely to be so for many more years.


Unlike Warren Buffet, Sir Julian Hodge, the Welsh banker, issued his apocalyptic warning three years before the first rash of derivatives disasters involving Metallgesellschaft, Orange County, Sears Roebuck, Proctor & Gamble, happened in 1994. More was to come in 1995 in the form of the Daiwa and Barings scandals. None of those on their own, however, threatened to bring the world financial system to its knees. Until recently the crisis that came closest to doing so involved LTCM in September 1998. Nearly 10 years later, in March 2008, the FED took emergency action to avoid what was called derivatives Chernobyl. That action seems to have worked … so far, but could a mega-catastrophe lie around the corner …?


Derivatives and Speculation

The job of a derivatives trader is like that of a bookie once removed, taking bets on people making bets.

The description above comes from In Into the Fire a novel about fraudulent trading in derivatives new! (now out in a new edition), by Linda Davies. Why on earth should anyone want to be a bookie once removed? The answer was given 63 years earlier by John Maynard Keynes in his best-known work.

Keynes on Speculation

“Professional investment may be likened to those newspaper competitions in which the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not the faces which he himself finds the prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view.”

“It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree when we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practise the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.”

Keynes, John Maynard The general theory of employment, interest and money. London : Macmillan, St. Martin’s Press, 1936. page 156.



Futures contracts, forward contracts, options and swaps are the most common types of derivatives. Because derivatives are just contracts, just about anything can be used as an 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 are generally used to hedge risk, but can also be used for speculative purposes. For example, a European investor purchasing shares of an American company off of an American exchange (using American dollars to do so) would be exposed to exchange-rate risk while holding that stock. To hedge this risk, the investor could purchase currency futures to lock in a specified exchange rate for the future stock sale and currency conversion back into euros.


Introduction To Weather Derivatives
by Felix Carabello,Associate Director, Environmental Products, Chicago Mercantile Exchange

Even in our advanced, technology-based society, we still live largely at the mercy of the weather. It influences our daily lives and choices, and has an enormous impact on corporate revenues and earnings. Until recently, there were very few financial tools offering companies’ protection against weather-related risks. However, the inception of the weather derivative – by making weather a tradeable commodity – has changed all this. Here we look at how the weather derivative was created, how it differs from insurance and how it works as a financial instrument.


Temperature as a Commodity
Until recently, insurance has been the main tool used by companies’ for protection against unexpected weather conditions. But insurance provides protection only against catastrophic damage. Insurance does nothing to protect against the reduced demand that businesses experience as a result of weather that is warmer or colder than expected.

In the late 1990s, people began to realize that if they quantified and indexed weather in terms of monthly or seasonal average temperatures, and attached a dollar amount to each index value, they could in a sense “package” and trade weather. In fact, this sort of trading would be comparable to trading the varying values of stock indices, currencies, interest rates and agricultural commodities. The concept of weather as a tradeable commodity, therefore, began to take shape.

[ . . . ]

In 1997 the first over-the-counter (OTC) weather derivative trade took place, and the field of weather risk management was born. According to Valerie Cooper, former executive director of the Weather Risk Management Association, an $8 billion weather-derivatives industry developed within a few years of its inception.

CME Weather Futures and Options on Futures

In 1999, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) took weather derivatives a step further and introduced exchange-traded weather futures and options on futures – the first products of their kind. OTC weather derivatives are privately negotiated, individualized agreements made between two parties. But CME weather futures and options on futures are standardized contracts traded publicly on the open market in an electronic auction-like environment, with continuous negotiation of prices and complete price transparency.

Broadly speaking, CME weather futures and options on futures are exchange-traded derivatives that – by means of specific indexes – reflect monthly and seasonal average temperatures of 15 U.S. and five European cities. These derivatives are legally binding agreements made between two parties, and settled in cash. Each contract is based on the final monthly or seasonal index value that is determined by Earth Satellite (EarthSat) Corp, an international firm that specializes in geographic information technologies. Other European weather firms determine values for the European contracts. EarthSat works with temperature data provided by the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), and the data it provides is used widely throughout the over-the-counter weather derivatives industry as well as by CME.



In finance, a credit derivative is a derivative whose value derives from the credit risk on an underlying bond, loan or other financial asset. In this way, the credit risk is on an entity other than the counterparties to the transaction itself.[1] This entity is known as the reference entity and may be a corporate, a sovereign or any other form of legal entity which has incurred debt.[2] Credit derivatives are bilateral contracts between a buyer and seller under which the seller sells protection against the credit risk of the reference entity.[3]

The parties will select which credit events apply to a transaction and these usually consist of one or more of the following:

  • bankruptcy (the risk that the reference entity will become bankrupt)
  • failure to pay (the risk that the reference entity will default on one of its obligations such as a bond or loan)
  • obligation default (the risk that the reference entity will default on any of its obligations)
  • obligation acceleration (the risk that an obligation of the reference entity will be accelerated e.g. a bond will be declared immediately due and payable following a default)
  • repudiation/moratorium (the risk that the reference entity or a government will declare a moratorium over the reference entity’s obligations)
  • restructuring (the risk that obligations of the reference entity will be restructured).

Where credit protection is bought and sold between bilateral counterparties this is known as an unfunded credit derivative. If the credit derivative is entered into by a financial institution or a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and payments under the credit derivative are funded using securitization techniques, such that a debt obligation is issued by the financial institution or SPV to support these obligations, this is known as a funded credit derivative.

This synthetic securitization process has become increasingly popular over the last decade, with the simple versions of these structures being known as synthetic CDOs; credit linked notes; single tranche CDOs, to name a few. In funded credit derivatives, transactions are often rated by rating agencies, which allows investors to take different slices of credit risk according to their risk appetite.


Credit default products are the most commonly traded credit derivative product[4] and include unfunded products such as credit default swaps and funded products such as collateralized debt obligations (see further discussion below).

The ISDA[5] reported in April 2007 that total notional amount on outstanding credit derivatives was $35.1 trillion with a gross market value of $948 billion (ISDA’s Website). As reported in Times Sept. 15.08 “Worldwide credit derivatives market is valued at $62 trillion”. [6]

Although the credit derivatives market is a global one, London has a market share of about 40%, with the rest of Europe having about 10%.[4]

The main market participants are banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, pension funds, and other corporates.[4]

Unfunded credit derivative products include the following products:

  • Credit default swap (CDS)
  • Total return swap
  • First to Default Credit Default Swap
  • Portfolio Credit Default Swap
  • Secured Loan Credit Default Swap
  • Credit Default Swap on Asset Backed Securities
  • Credit default swaption
  • Recovery lock transaction
  • Credit Spread Option
  • CDS index products
  • Constant Maturity Credit Default Swap (CMCDS)

Funded credit derivative products include the following products:

  • Credit linked note (CLN)
  • Synthetic Collateralised Debt Obligation (CDO)
  • Constant Proportion Debt Obligation (CPDO)
  • Synthetic Constant Proportion Portfolio Insurance (Synthetic CPPI)



Proposals for a makeover of the financial system include reform of the credit derivatives market, which offers over $50 trillion of default insurance coverage. Do investors need that much insurance, or is this mainly a dangerous casino operating under the radar of regulators — until a major financial institution like AIG needs a bailout? What sort of reform is needed?

The seller of protection in a credit derivatives contract receives premiums from the buyer of protection until maturity, or until default of the named borrower. Contracts are negotiated over the counter, not on an exchange, so it is difficult to know how much insurance exists on each borrower, or to know who has insured whom, and for how much.

That privacy is not unusual in the normal course of business contracts. What is unusual is the size of the potential claims. There is a public interest in knowing that systemically important sellers of protection have not overdone it. If a large bank or insurance company does not have enough capital to cover settlement claims, then its failure, or the threat of it, can cause mayhem, as we have just seen.

Derivatives and Mass Financial Destruction

Complex financial products can be useful if regulated properly.


The Fed is pressing dealers to quickly establish clearing in credit derivatives. The dealers have expressed an interest in using their own clearing counterparty, the Chicago Clearing Corporation. Alternatively, they could clear credit derivatives with a new joint venture of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Citadel (a large hedge fund). Either way, regulators should ensure that a clearing counterparty is extremely well capitalized and has strong operational controls.

Unfortunately, the urgency to set up clearing for credit derivatives may lead us to miss the opportunity to reduce exposures even further by clearing credit derivatives along with other forms of over-the-counter derivatives, such as interest-rate swaps and equity derivatives, which represent similarly large amounts of risk transfer.

Mr. Duffie is a professor of finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.



A credit derivative is an OTC derivative designed to transfer credit risk from one party to another. By synthetically creating or eliminating credit exposures, they allow institutions to more effectively manage credit risks. Credit derivatives take many forms. Three basic structures include:

credit default swap: Two parties enter into an agreement whereby one party pays the other a fixed periodic coupon for the specified life of the agreement. The other party makes no payments unless a specified credit event occurs. Credit events are typically defined to include a material default, bankruptcy or debt restructuring for a specified reference asset. If such a credit event occurs, the party makes a payment to the first party, and the swap then terminates. The size of the payment is usually linked to the decline in the reference asset’s market value following the credit event.





File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – View as HTML
Blythe Masters, global head of credit derivatives marketing at J.P. Morgan in New performer in credit derivatives rankings. J.P. Morgan was was placed:
http://www.investinginbonds.com/assets/files/Intro_to_Credit_Derivatives.pdf –

(from Google)



A Beginner’s Guide to Credit Derivatives

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – View as HTML
This document will attempt to describe how simple credit derivatives can be. formally represented, shown to be replicable and ultimately priced, using rea-
http://www.probability.net/credit.pdf –

(from Google)


When Delphi filed for bankruptcy October 8, investors had to start assessing their losses on more than $2 billion in the auto parts maker’s bonds, which have recently traded at around 60% of their face value. As bad as that is, there is more. Looming over the market like an invisible and unpredictable giant is an estimated $25 billion in credit derivatives, a form of insurance whose value is directly linked to the ups and downs of Delphi debt.

What happens to these complex contracts as the underlying bonds plunge in value? Will ripple effects amplify the Delphi damage, spreading harm to institutional and individual investors who otherwise have no stake in Delphi?

The Delphi situation points to a broader question: Is the credit derivative market, which grew from next to nothing in the mid-1990s to an estimated $5 trillion at the end of 2004 — and is perhaps more than twice that size today — pumping new, poorly-understood risk into the financial markets? Or are these exotic products helping to mitigate the shock from corporate crises, as their proponents claim?

The Ballooning Credit Derivatives Market: Easing Risk or Making It Worse?

Published: November 02, 2005 in Knowledge@Wharton



Calls to curb credit derivatives market

By Joanna Chung and Aline van Duyn in New York and Paul J Davies in London

Published: September 23 2008 23:30 | Last updated: September 23 2008 23:30

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Pressure to regulate the $62,000bn credit derivatives market mounted on Tuesday as the main US market regulator called on Congress to pass laws to supervise the industry.

Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Senate banking committee that “significant opportunities” for manipulation existed in the market for credit default swaps, which offers a kind of insurance against companies defaulting on their debt.



(compiled by Cricket Diane C Sparky Phillips, 10-22-08)