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What are Derivatives

"Derivative" indicates that it has no independent value, i.e. its value is entirely "derived" from the value of the underlying asset. The underlying asset can be securities, commodities, bullion, currency, live stock or anything else. In other words, Derivative means a forward, future, option or any other hybrid contract of pre determined fixed duration, linked for the purpose of contract fulfillment to the value of a specified real or financial asset or to an index of securities

Derivative has been defined in Securities Contracts (Regulations) Act, as:-
A Derivative includes: -
a. a security derived from a debt instrument, share, loan, whether secured or unsecured, risk instrument or contract for differences or any other form of security;
b. a contract which derives its value from the prices, or index of prices, of underlying securities;

Components of Derivatives:
Holder: Holder is the buyer of derivative agreement. By buying an agreement, the buyer may agree to buy or sell the underlying asset.

Seller: One who sells the contract to holder.

Expiry date: The date at which agreement will get matured / exercised.

Strike price: The price at which derivative will get exercised and is decided at the time of entering into agreement (between buyer and seller).

Premium: It is the price which buyer pays for buying an option contract. The premium is not to be paid for futures contract.



Derivatives are generally used as an instrument to hedge risk, but can also be used for speculative purposes.Derivates are usually seen as instruments for bringing in protection against unexpected rise or fall in the price of underlying asset. Secondly, derivatives are used to yield better returns with lower capital investment as compared to the amount that will be invested to buy the shares directly form the spot market.

Types of Derivatives Instruments:

  • Futures/Forwards Contracts: Futures/Forwards are contracts to buy or sell an asset on or before a future date at a price specified today. A futures contract differs from a forward contract in that the futures contract is a standardized contract written by a clearing house that operates an exchange where the contract can be bought and sold, whereas a forward contract is a non-standardized contract written by the parties themselves.The contract expires on a pre-specified date which is called the expiry date of the contract. On expiry, futures can be settled by delivery of the underlying asset or cash. Cash settlement enables the settlement of obligations arising out of the future/option contract in cash.



  • Options Contracts: Options Contract is a type of Derivatives Contract which gives the buyer/holder of the contract the right (but not the obligation) to buy/sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price within or at end of a specified period. The buyer / holder of the option purchases the right from the seller/writer for a consideration which is called the premium. The seller/writer of an option is obligated to settle the option as per the terms of the contract when the buyer/holder exercises his right. The underlying asset could include securities, an index of prices of securities etc.
    Under Securities Contracts (Regulations) Act,1956 options on securities has been defined as "option in securities" meaning a contract for the purchase or sale of a right to buy or sell, or a right to buy and sell, securities in future, and includes a teji, a mandi, a teji mandi, a galli, a put, a call or a put and call in securities.
    An Option to buy is called Call option and option to sell is called Put option. Further, if an option that is exercisable on or before the expiry date is called American option and one that is exercisable only on expiry date, is called European option. The price at which the option is to be exercised is called Strike price or Exercise price.
    Therefore, in the case of American options the buyer has the right to exercise the option at anytime on or before the expiry date. This request for exercise is submitted to the Exchange, which randomly assigns the exercise request to the sellers of the options, who are obligated to settle the terms of the contract within a specified time frame.
    As in the case of futures contracts, option contracts can be also be settled by delivery of the underlying asset or cash. However, unlike futures cash settlement in option contract entails paying/receiving the difference between the strike price/exercise price and the price of the underlying asset either at the time of expiry of the contract or at the time of exercise / assignment of the option contract.
    Read Detailed description of Call Put Options
  • Swaps Contracts: Swaps are contracts to exchange cash (flows) on or before a specified future date based on the underlying value of currencies/exchange rates, bonds/interest rates, commodities, stocks or other assets.

Index Futures and Index Option:

Futures contract based on an index i.e. the underlying asset is the index, are known as Index Futures Contracts. For example, futures contract on NIFTY Index and BSE-30 Index. These contracts derive their value from the value of the underlying index.
The options contracts, which are based on some index, are known as Index options contract. However, unlike Index Futures, the buyer of Index Option Contracts has only the right but not the obligation to buy / sell the underlying index on expiry. Index Option Contracts are generally European Style options i.e. they can be exercised / assigned only on the expiry date.
By its very nature, index cannot be delivered on maturity of the Index futures or Index option contracts therefore, these contracts are essentially cash settled on Expiry.

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