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10.4 Users Of Derivatives

Learn about the various market participants who use derivatives, their roles, and how they utilize these financial instruments for speculation and risk management.

The Users of Derivatives

Understanding the different participants in the derivatives market is essential for grasping how these financial instruments function. Users of derivatives can be broadly categorized into four groups:

  1. Individual Investors
  2. Institutional Investors
  3. Businesses and Corporations
  4. Derivative Dealers

Individual Investors

Individual investors typically use derivatives to speculate on the future price movements of an underlying asset. For example, they might purchase options to bet on stock price trends or use futures contracts to speculate on commodities. While individual investors can gain significant leverage through derivatives, it’s important to note that these are high-risk strategies primarily suited for those with substantial market knowledge.

Institutional Investors

Institutional investors, such as pension funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies, often use derivatives for hedging to manage risk in their investment portfolios. For example, a mutual fund might use options to protect against potential losses in its stock holdings. These institutions have experienced financial professionals who assess and manage risks using a variety of derivative instruments.

Businesses and Corporations

Companies leverage derivatives primarily to hedge against fluctuations in commodity prices, interest rates, and foreign exchange rates. A company import/export business, for instance, might use currency futures to protect against currency exchange rate volatility when conducting international transactions. This application of derivatives helps companies stabilize their costs and projections.

Derivative Dealers

Derivative dealers act as intermediaries in the market. They facilitate transactions by buying and selling derivatives to meet the demands of their clients, which includes the other three groups mentioned. Dealers don’t typically retain large positions themselves; instead, they earn their profits through the volume of transactions. These functions are crucial to the liquidity and efficiency of the derivatives market.

Here’s a flowchart that simplifies the relationships among different users of derivatives:

    graph TD
	  A[Derivative Market] --> B[Individual Investors]
	  A --> C[Institutional Investors]
	  A --> D[Businesses & Corporations]
	  A --> E[Derivative Dealers]
	  E --> B
	  E --> C
	  E --> D

Key Takeaways

  • Individual Investors: Primarily use derivatives for speculative purposes.
  • Institutional Investors: Utilize derivatives for hedging to manage the risks of large, diversified portfolios.
  • Businesses and Corporations: Use derivatives to hedge and manage risks associated with operational and financial exposures.
  • Derivative Dealers: Serve as market intermediaries, providing liquidity and balance without holding large positions.

Glossary and Definitions

  • Derivative: A financial instrument whose value is derived from an underlying asset, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, or currencies.
  • Speculation: The act of trading with the expectation of significant returns by risking on the future price movements of an asset.
  • Hedging: A risk management strategy used to offset potential losses in one investment by making another to reduce the risk.
  • Options: Contracts granting the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset at a set price before a specified date.
  • Futures: Contracts obligating the purchase or sale of an asset at a predetermined price at a future date.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the primary purposes of using derivatives?

Derivatives are primarily used for hedging risks or speculating on price movements of underlying assets.

How do derivative dealers operate?

Derivative dealers act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers, providing liquidity to enhance market efficiency. They make profits from transaction fees rather than holding large positions themselves.

Why is hedging important for businesses?

Hedging allows businesses to stabilize costs and reduce uncertainties related to fluctuating prices, interest rates, and currency exchange rates.

What is the difference between speculation and hedging?

Speculation involves taking on risk for potential profit from price changes, whereas hedging involves minimizing risk to manage potential losses.

Can individual investors use derivatives successfully?

While individual investors can benefit from derivatives, these instruments carry high risks and are best suited for those with substantial market knowledge.


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## Which of the following is NOT considered an end user of derivatives? - [ ] Individual investors - [ ] Institutional investors - [ ] Businesses and corporations - [x] Derivative dealers > **Explanation:** End users of derivatives include individual investors, institutional investors, and businesses and corporations. Derivative dealers act as intermediaries and are not end users. ## How do individual investors primarily use derivatives? - [x] To speculate on the price or value of an underlying asset - [ ] To reduce transaction costs - [ ] To perform regulatory oversight - [ ] To buy physical assets > **Explanation:** Individual investors use derivatives primarily to speculate on the price or value of an underlying asset. ## What primary purpose do businesses and corporations have for using derivatives? - [ ] Increasing workforce - [ ] Enhancing marketing strategies - [ ] Expanding physical inventory - [x] Hedging, a form of risk management > **Explanation:** Businesses and corporations use derivatives to hedge and manage risks associated with anticipated or existing positions in underlying assets. ## What role do derivative dealers play in the derivatives market? - [ ] They take large positions in derivatives - [ ] They speculate on derivatives - [ ] They only provide analysis - [x] They act as intermediaries by buying and selling to meet the demands of end users > **Explanation:** Derivative dealers act as intermediaries in the derivatives market, balancing risks and arranging deals to meet the demands of end users. ## Which of these groups would likely use derivatives to hedge against price fluctuations? - [ ] Derivative dealers - [x] Businesses and corporations - [ ] Market regulators - [ ] Real estate agents > **Explanation:** Businesses and corporations use derivatives to hedge and manage risks, especially to protect against price fluctuations in underlying assets. ## Why might institutional investors use derivatives? - [ ] To store physical assets - [ ] To increase staffing - [x] To speculate or hedge existing positions in underlying assets - [ ] To sell goods and services > **Explanation:** Institutional investors use derivatives either to speculate on the price or value of underlying assets or to hedge existing positions in these assets. ## Do derivative dealers typically take large positions in derivative contracts? - [ ] Yes, often - [ ] Occasionally - [x] No, they generally do not - [ ] Always > **Explanation:** Derivative dealers generally do not take large positions in derivative contracts. Instead, they focus on balancing risks through the volume of deals. ## What is the main profit mechanism for derivative dealers? - [ ] Long-term holding - [x] Profit from the volume of deals - [ ] Selling physical commodities - [ ] Reducing market competition > **Explanation:** Derivative dealers earn profits from the volume of deals they arrange with their customers. ## Speculating on the price of an underlying asset using derivatives might be the primary goal of which group? - [ ] Real estate developers - [x] Individual investors - [ ] Business administration teams - [ ] Regulatory bodies > **Explanation:** Individual investors primarily use derivatives to speculate on the price or value of an underlying asset. ## Which application of derivatives is a form of risk management? - [ ] Speculation - [ ] Short selling - [ ] Market-making - [x] Hedging > **Explanation:** Hedging is an application of derivatives that serves as a form of risk management to protect the value of an anticipated or existing position in an underlying asset.

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In this section

  • 10.4.1 Individual Investors
    Comprehensive guide on individual investors and their involvement with exchange-traded derivatives
  • 10.4.2 Institutional Investors
    Detailed guide on institutional investors and their use of derivatives including strategies like hedging, market entry and exit, arbitrage, and yield enhancement.
  • 10.4.3 Corporations And Businesses
    Explore how corporations and businesses utilize derivatives for hedging risks related to interest rates, currencies, and commodities.
  • 10.4.4 Derivative Dealers
    Learn about the role of derivative dealers in both exchange-traded and OTC markets in Canada, including the functions they serve and the key types of institutions involved.
Tuesday, July 23, 2024