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What is a Derivative?

Financial derivatives are tools associated with a particular investment vehicle, index or commodity. Deals in financial derivatives are executed as trades stemming from larger asset classes in the market. For example, a derivative investment in housing may be linked to indexes that measure housing pricing and other data trends.

In other words, the price of a financial derivative is based on the value of the underlying asset. Contrary to a debt tool, no principal money is extended to be repaid and no investment earnings are accrued. Financial derivatives can be applied for several reasons such as risk mitigation, hedging, arbitrage between markets and speculation.

Financial derivatives help investors to trade in particular financial risks such as interest rates, currency, stocks and commodity value risk as well as credit risk, among others. These trades are executed with counter parties who take the other side of the trade dealing with the respective asset.

The risk involved in a derivative script can be managed either by selling the script itself in the form of options, for instance or by building a new script by incorporating risk aspects that equal the current script owned. The latter option is referred to as offestability in financial jargon and is employed in forward markets.

Offsetability implies that it will be able to remove the risk linked with the derivative by building a new, but “reverse”, script that has features that hedge the risk of the previous derivative. Purchasing the new derivative is the practical correspondent of trading the previous derivative, as the outcome is the removal of risk. The capacity to remove the risk on the market is therefore assumed to equal the tradability in the expressed value.

Monetary derivatives scripts are often traded with net payments of cash. This usually happens before its maturity for exchange traded scripts like commodity futures. Cash exchange is a logical outcome of the use of monetary derivatives to exchange risk separately of ownership regarding the commodity in play. But, certain monetary derivative trades, especially those in forex, are linked with dealings in the underlying commodity.

Some industry analysts and observers have advocated that over-the-counter monetary derivatives be considered as financial property, and, consequently, interest rate swaps and forward rate agreements (FRAs) should be changed accordingly so that in place of being scribed in the earning account as asset income, they instead be accounted for as monetary assets in the financial account.

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Jonah Engler

Former Stock Broker and Financial Expert, Jonah Engler is a New York City based entrepreneur who writes about entrepreneurship, investing, public relations, and other topics that fascinate him. Engler explores Entrepreneurship through his Mobile Phone Franchises in the NYC area.