QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
1. What are derivatives?
Derivatives, such as futures or options, are financial contracts which
derive their value from a spot price, which is called the “underlying”. For
example, wheat farmers may wish to enter into a contract to sell their
harvest at a future date to eliminate the risk of a change in prices by that
date. Such a transaction would take place through a forward or futures
market. This market is the “derivatives market", and the prices of this
market would be driven by the spot market price of wheat which is the
“underlying”. The term “contracts" is often applied to denote the specific
traded instrument, whether it is a derivative contract in wheat, gold or
equity shares. The world over, derivatives are a key part of the financial
system. The most important contract types are futures and options, and
the most important underlying markets are equity, treasury bills,
commodities, foreign exchange, real estate etc.
2. What is a forward contract?
In a forward contract, two parties agree to do a trade at some future date, at a stated price and quantity. No money changes hands at the time
the deal is signed.
3. Why is forward contracting useful?
Forward contracting is very valuable in hedging and speculation. The
classic hedging application would be that of a wheat farmer forward -
selling his harvest at a known price in order to eliminate price risk.
Conversely, a bread factory may want to buy bread forward in order to
assist production planning without the risk of price fluctuations. If a
speculator has information or analysis which forecasts an upturn in a
price, then he can go long on the forward market instead of the cash
market. The speculator would go long on the forward, wait for the price
to rise, and then take a reversing transaction making a profit.
4. What are the problems of forward markets?
Forward markets worldwide are afflicted by several problems:
(a) lack of centralisation of trading,
(b) illiquidity, and
(c) counterparty risk.
In the first two of these, the basic problem is that of too much flexibility
and generality. The forward market is like the real estate market in that
any two persons can form contracts against each other. This often makes
them design terms of the deal which are very convenient in that specific
situation for the specific parties, but makes the contracts non-tradeable if
more participants are involved. Also the “phone market" here is unlike
the centralisation of price discovery that is obtained on an exchange,
resulting in an illiquid market place for forward markets. Counterparty
risk in forward markets is a simple idea: when one of the two sides of the
transaction chooses to declare bankruptcy, the other suffers. Forward
markets have one basic issue: the larger the time period over which the
forward contract is open, the larger are the potential price movements,
and hence the larger is the counter- party risk.
Even when forward markets trade standardized contracts, and hence avoid the problem of illiquidity, the counterparty risk remains a very real problem.
5. What is a futures contract?
Futures markets were designed to solve all the three problems (listed in
Question 4) of forward markets. Futures markets are exactly like forward
markets in terms of basic economics. However, contracts are
standardised and trading is centralized (on a stock exchange). There is
no counterparty risk (thanks to the institution of a clearing corporation
which becomes counterparty to both sides of each transaction and
guarantees the trade). In futures markets, unlike in forward markets,
increasing the time to expiration does not increase the counter party risk.
Futures markets are highly liquid as compared to the forward markets.
6. What are various types of derivative instruments traded at NSE?
There are two types of derivatives instruments traded on NSE; namely Futures and Options :
Futures : A futures contract is an agreement between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a certain time in the future at a certain price. All the futures contracts are settled in cash at NSE.
Options: An Option is a contract which gives the right, but not an obligation,
to buy or sell the underlying at a stated date and at a stated price. While a
buyer of an option pays the premium and buys the right to exercise his
option, the writer of an option is the one who receives the option premium
and therefore obliged to sell/buy the asset if the buyer exercises it on him.
Options are of two types - Calls and Puts options :
"Calls" give the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy a given quantity
of the underlying asset, at a given price on or before a given future date.
"Puts" give the buyer the right, but not the obligation to sell a given quantity of underlying asset at a given price on or before a given future date. All the options contracts are settled in cash.
Further the Options are classified based on type of exercise. At present the Exercise style can be European or American.
American Option - American options are options contracts that can be exercised at any time upto the expiration date. Options on individual securities available at NSE are American type of options.
European Options - European options are options that can be exercised
only on the expiration date. All index options traded at NSE are European
Options contracts like futures are Cash settled at NSE.
7. What are various products available for trading in Futures and
Options segment at NSE?
Futures and options contracts are traded on Indices and on Single stocks.
The derivatives trading at NSE commenced with futures on the Nifty 50
in June 2000. Subsequently, various other products were introduced and
presently futures and options contracts on the following products are available at NSE:
1. Indices : Nifty 50 CNX IT Index, Bank Nifty Index, CNX Nifty
Junior, CNX 100 , Nifty Midcap 50, Mini Nifty and Long dated
Options contracts on Nfity 50.
2. Single stocks - 228
8. Why Should I trade in derivatives?
Futures trading will be of interest to those who wish to:
1) Invest - take a view on the market and buy or sell accordingly.
2) Price Risk Transfer- Hedging - Hedging is buying and selling futures
contracts to offset the risks of changing underlying market prices.
Thus it helps in reducing the risk associated with exposures in
underlying market by taking a counter- positions in the futures market.
For example, an investor who has purchased a portfolio of stocks
may have a fear of adverse market conditions in future which may
reduce the value of his portfolio. He can hedge against this risk by
shorting the index which is correlated with his portfolio, say the
Nifty 50. In case the markets fall, he would make a profit by
squaring off his short Nifty 50 position. This profit would
compensate for the loss he suffers in his portfolio as a result of the fall in the markets.
3) Leverage- Since the investor is required to pay a small fraction of the
value of the total contract as margins, trading in Futures is a leveraged
activity since the investor is able to control the total value of the
contract with a relatively small amount of margin. Thus the Leverage
enables the traders to make a larger profit (or loss) with a
comparatively small amount of capital.
Options trading will be of interest to those who wish to :
1) Participate in the market without trading or holding a large quantity
2) Protect their portfolio by paying small premium amount.
Benefits of trading in Futures and Options :
1) Able to transfer the risk to the person who is willing to accept them
2) Incentive to make profits with minimal amount of risk capital
3) Lower transaction costs
4) Provides liquidity, enables price discovery in underlying market
5) Derivatives market are lead economic indicators.
9. What are the benefits of trading in Index Futures compared to any
An investor can trade the 'entire stock market' by buying index futures
instead of buying individual securities with the efficiency of a mutual
The advantages of trading in Index Futures are:
• The contracts are highly liquid
• Index Futures provide higher leverage than any other stocks
• It requires low initial capital requirement
• It has lower risk than buying and holding stocks
• It is just as easy to trade the short side as the long side
• Only have to study one index instead of 100s of stocks
10. How do I start trading in the derivatives market at NSE?
Futures/ Options contracts in both index as well as stocks can be bought
and sold through the trading members of NSE. Some of the trading
members also provide the internet facility to trade in the futures and
options market. You are required to open an account with one of the
trading members and complete the related formalities which include
signing of member-constituent agreement, Know Your Client (KYC) form
and risk disclosure document. The trading member will allot to you an
unique client identification number. To begin trading, you must deposit
cash and/or other collaterals with your trading member as may be stipulated by him.
11. What is the Expiration Day?
It is the last day on which the contracts expire. Futures and Options contracts expire on the last Thursday of the expiry month. If the last Thursday is a trading holiday, the contracts expire on the previous trading day. For E.g. The January 2008 contracts mature on January 31, 2008.
12. What is the contract cycle for Equity based products in NSE ?
Futures and Options contracts have a maximum of 3-month trading cycle -
the near month (one), the next month (two) and the far month (three),
except for the Long dated Options contracts. New contracts are introduced
on the trading day following the expiry of the near month contracts. The
new contracts are introduced for a three month duration. This way, at any
point in time, there will be 3 contracts available for trading in the market
(for each security) i.e., one near month, one mid month and one far month
duration respectively. For example on January 26,2008 there would be
three month contracts i.e. Contracts expiring on January 31,2008,
February 28, 2008 and March 27, 2008. On expiration date i.e January
31,2008, new contracts having maturity of April 24,2008 would be
introduced for trading.
13. What is the concept of In the money, At the money and Out of
the money in respect of Options?
In- the- money options (ITM) - An in-the-money option is an option that
would lead to positive cash flow to the holder if it were exercised
immediately. A Call option is said to be in-the-money when the current
price stands at a level higher than the strike price. If the Spot price is much
higher than the strike price, a Call is said to be deep in-the-money option.
In the case of a Put, the put is in-the-money if the Spot price is below the
At-the-money-option (ATM) - An at-the money option is an option that
would lead to zero cash flow if it were exercised immediately. An option on the index is said to be "at-the-money" when the current price equals the strike price.
Out-of-the-money-option (OTM) - An out-of- the-money Option is an
option that would lead to negative cash flow if it were exercised
immediately. A Call option is out-of-the-money when the current price
stands at a level which is less than the strike price. If the current price is
much lower than the strike price the call is said to be deep out-of-the money.
In case of a Put, the Put is said to be out-of-money if current price is above
the strike price.
14. Is there any Margin payable?
Yes. Margins are computed and collected on-line, real time on a portfolio basis at the client level. Members are required to collect the margin upfront from the client & report the same to the Exchange.
15. How are the contracts settled?
All the Futures and Options contracts are settled in cash on a daily basis
and at the expiry or exercise of the respective contracts as the case may
be. Clients/Trading Members are not required to hold any stock of the
underlying for dealing in the Futures / Options market. All out of the money
and at the money option contracts of the near month maturity expire worthless on the expiration date.