Introduction to Derivatives

Humans have always been inventive through their sojourn in this world, and have come up with innumerable inventions that have made their lives comfortable. Sometimes though, they have done themselves, and their world, a lot of harm, with their inventions.

While many of the human inventions have fulfilled a genuine need, some inventions have served only their contrived needs, and yet others have catered to the baser instincts of man, primarily, greed.

Into which of these above categories does the financial instrument called “derivatives” fit in? Does it serve a genuine need or a contrived one, or only serves to pander to man’s greed? In the light of the present Banking crisis, said to be triggered by the housing mortgage crisis, it would appear that derivatives fall in the last category.

What is a Derivative? A derivative is a kind of financial instrument that does not have a value of its own, but derives it from an underlying base. This base may be an asset, or an index, or even a phenomenon. In a way,a derivative resembles a parasite that feeds off its host.

Derivatives do not have an independent existence of their own. They exist as offshoots of either assets like stocks, commodities, residential mortgages, etc. or indices relating to the stock market, consumer prices, exchange rates, etc., or even phenomena like the weather conditions. They derive their values from assets as described above.

Purpose and Scope: There are several purposes for which derivatives are put to use. Sometimes they are used to cover the risks associated with genuine business transactions, and sometimes for plain profit making. Sometimes it is dictated by necessity, sometimes by inclination. Some of the major purposes of using derivatives are:

Risk Management: The major purpose of having derivatives is to manage or counter risks faced in the business environment, especially that which cannot be dealt with conventionally. It is also called Hedging. Hedging occurs when the risk of the underlying asset is transferred through the medium of the derivative from one person to another. A forward contract in a foreign exchange transaction like export and import is an example of hedging.

Suppose an exporter of wheat based in Chicago exports a consignment of wheat to the United Kingdom, and expects the rate of the British Pound to decline against the U.S. Dollar, he may book a forward contract and sell his pounds at current rates against future delivery of wheat to the U.K.

Speculation: Another purpose for which derivatives are used may be to book extra profits, or profits out of the ordinary, by taking advantage of the favorable movement of the value of the underlying asset. Here the purpose of using derivatives is not hedging, or countering risk, but to scoop up additional profits. This activity is called speculation.

Arbitrage: Yet another purpose of derivatives is called as arbitrage, that is taking advantage of a lower current market value vis a vis, the future value of an asset. Whereas the use … Read More

How Credit Cards Can Spell Trouble

If you think you are a person with low money management skills, then it is in your best interest not to apply for a credit card. Such a card is a great financial tool, however it has to be used responsibly so that you do not end up having to pay more than you can afford when your bill is issued. When you pay with plastic money you do not have the feeling that you are spending any cash and this is one of the reasons why people that have a credit account usually spend more than the people that pay in cash.

This rule applies mostly in the case of small purchases. However you should keep in mind that all those little things that you pay for with your card can add up. Another thing that you should pay attention to is your credit limit, as this is one of the main factors that lead to debt. Some creditors allow you to exceed your credit limit because it benefits them, as they gain a lot more when you will have to pay higher fees for the sum that you exceeded.

Whenever you are opening a credit card account you nearly always have the option of choosing the due day. Do not leave this due time day to be chosen by your creditor since he is not aware of all your expenses and the day that best suits you to pay your bills. Therefore think of the day when you are able to pay your credit card bill and, most importantly, try to make your payments before that date. Usually every day that you are late with paying your credit card bill means additional fees and that can be hard to pay if you have some financial difficulties.

Lastly, if you are unable to pay your credit card bill at the end of the month contact your creditor immediately and try to find a solution with him. Most creditors will not take any legal action against you unless you exceed a period of three months. Do not ignore his e-mails or calls but rather pay him a visit, because your financial situation will only get worse since you need to pay high fees for every day that you are late.

If you think that you cannot respect these simple rules, then the credit card is not the best tool for you.… Read More