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10.3 Types Of Underlying Assets

Comprehensive guide on the various types of underlying assets in derivative contracts. Learn about commodities, financial assets, and the over-the-counter (OTC) markets.

2 | Identify the Types of Underlying Assets on Which Derivatives are Based


In the world of derivatives, underlying assets play a crucial role in determining the value and functionality of the derivative contracts. The two general categories of underlying assets for derivative contracts are commodities and financial assets. However, the over-the-counter (OTC) markets introduce more flexibility, offering a wide range of underlying assets driven by the creativity and demands of market participants.

Categories of Underlying Assets

1. Commodities

Commodities are tangible assets that are usually extracted or cultivated and are traded in global markets. They can be categorized into:

  • Agricultural Commodities: Includes products like wheat, corn, soybeans, coffee, cotton, and livestock.
  • Energy Commodities: Comprises resources like crude oil, natural gas, heating oil, and gasoline.
  • Metals: Includes precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and base metals like copper, aluminum, and nickel.

2. Financial Assets

Financial assets are intangible and represent a claim to future cash flows. They are further divided into:

  • Equities: Shares of companies or stock indices like the S&P 500 or TSX.
  • Fixed Income: Bonds, treasury notes, and other debt instruments.
  • Currencies: Forex pairs like USD/CAD or EUR/USD.
  • Interest Rates: Focuses on variations in interest rates, often involving instruments like interest rate swaps.

OTC Markets

The over-the-counter markets are decentralized and flexible, allowing customized derivative contracts tailored to specific needs. Key features include:

  • Flexibility: Custom contracts tailored to specific risk management or speculative needs.
  • Innovative Assets: Wide range of underlying assets, limited only by participant creativity.
  • Counterparty Risk: Increased risk due to lack of standardization and regulatory oversight.


Here’s a diagramming representation of different categories of underlying assets:

    graph TD
	    A[Underlying Assets]
	    A --> B[Commodities] --> C[Agricultural]
	    B --> D[Energy]
	    B --> E[Metals]
	    A --> F[Financial Assets] --> G[Equities]
	    F --> H[Fixed Income]
	    F --> I[Currencies]
	    F --> J[Interest Rates]

Key Takeaways

  • Commodities and Financial Assets: These are the two main categories of underlying assets for derivatives.
  • Diverse Options: Various sub-categories within commodities and financial assets expand trading opportunities.
  • OTC Flexibility: OTC markets provide customization, though with higher risks.


  • Derivative: A financial instrument whose value is dependent on the value of an underlying asset.
  • Commodity: A basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other goods of the same type.
  • Equity: The value of the shares issued by a company.
  • OTC (Over-The-Counter): A decentralized market where participants trade directly with each other.
  • Counterparty Risk: The risk that the other party in an agreement will default.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What are derivatives based on?

A1: Derivatives are financial instruments whose value depends on underlying assets such as commodities and financial assets.

Q2: What are some examples of financial assets?

A2: Examples include equities, fixed-income securities, currencies, and interest rates.

Q3: What is unique about the OTC market?

A3: The OTC market offers flexibility in legal, contractual terms, and the types of underlying assets, though it comes with increased counterparty risk.

📚✨ Quiz Time! ✨📚

🧐 Assess and Solidify Your Understanding

Welcome to the Knowledge Checkpoint! You’ll find 10 carefully curated quizzes designed to reinforce the key concepts covered. These questions will help you gauge your grasp of the material, identify areas that need further review, and ensure you’re on the right track towards mastering the content for the Canadian Securities certification exams. Take your time, think critically, and use these quizzes as a tool to enhance your learning journey. 📘✨

Good luck! 🍀💪

## What are the two general categories of underlying assets for derivative contracts? - [ ] Real Estate and Art - [x] Commodities and Financial Assets - [ ] Technology and Pharmaceuticals - [ ] Infrastructure and Transportation > **Explanation:** The two general categories of underlying assets for derivative contracts are commodities and financial assets. ## Which market allows for a wider variety of underlying assets, limited only by the imagination of market participants? - [ ] Organized exchange markets - [x] Over-the-counter (OTC) markets - [ ] Centralized clearing markets - [ ] Regulatory markets > **Explanation:** In OTC markets, the choice of underlying assets is limited only by the imagination and needs of market participants. ## Which of the following is not an example of a commodity underlying asset? - [ ] Oil - [ ] Gold - [ ] Wheat - [x] Bonds > **Explanation:** Commodities like oil, gold, and wheat are underlying assets for derivatives, but bonds are considered financial assets. ## In the context of underlying assets for derivatives, what are financial assets? - [ ] Physical goods like metals and grains - [x] Instruments like bonds and stocks - [ ] Natural resources - [ ] Real estate properties > **Explanation:** Financial assets include instruments like bonds and stocks, which can underlie derivative contracts. ## Where are derivative contracts typically traded in a regulated, standardized environment? - [x] Organized exchanges - [ ] Local markets - [ ] Direct trade platforms - [ ] Informal trading groups > **Explanation:** Derivative contracts are typically traded in a regulated, standardized environment on organized exchanges. ## Which of the following underlying assets would most likely be traded on an organized exchange? - [ ] Custom financial agreements - [x] Equity options on publically listed stocks - [ ] Private company shares - [ ] Unique, non-standardized commodities > **Explanation:** Equity options on publicly listed stocks would most likely be traded on organized exchanges because these markets favor standardization. ## What underlying assets are commonly used in the more flexible OTC markets? - [x] Custom financial agreements and tailored contracts - [ ] Standardized stocks and bonds - [ ] Government-issued securities - [ ] Public corporate shares > **Explanation:** Custom financial agreements and tailored contracts are common in the flexible OTC markets. ## What kind of assets underlies derivative contracts traded in the US and Canadian organized exchanges? - [x] Commodities and financial assets - [ ] Real estate and infrastructure - [ ] Technology patents and intellectual property - [ ] Pharmaceuticals and healthcare products > **Explanation:** The assets that underlie derivative contracts traded on organized exchanges in the US and Canada are commodities and financial assets. ## Which category would a derivative based on the performance of a stock index fall into? - [x] Financial assets - [ ] Physical commodities - [ ] Natural resources - [ ] Real estate > **Explanation:** A derivative based on the performance of a stock index falls into the category of financial assets. ## Understanding the nature of underlying assets is essential for participants in which markets? - [ ] Only physical commodities markets - [ ] Only stock markets - [x] Both organized exchange and OTC markets - [ ] Only real estate markets > **Explanation:** Understanding the nature of underlying assets is essential for participants in both organized exchange and OTC markets.

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In this section

  • 10.3.1 Commodities
    An in-depth guide on commodities, their types, use in futures and options, and the factors influencing their prices. Learn more about the different categories, key terminologies, and their significance in financial markets.
  • 10.3.2 Financial Assets
    A comprehensive guide on the explosive growth of financial derivatives, driven by factors like volatile interest rates, financial deregulation, globalization, and advances in information technology. This section delves into the most commonly used financial assets, such as equities, interest rates, and currencies.
Saturday, July 13, 2024