Toledo Talk

Derivatives based on debt, what the hell is that?

I heard a finance guy claim that there's about $400 trillion in debt based derivatives that could turn the planet into a ghetto. Finance guys,, could you comment on the effects of derivatives made from mortgages, then derivatives made from all U.S. debt please?

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Derivatives are financial instruments whose values depend on the value of other underlying financial instruments. The main types of derivatives are futures, forwards, options, and swaps.

The main use of derivatives is to reduce risk for one party. The diverse range of potential underlying assets and pay-off alternatives leads to a wide range of derivatives contracts available to be traded in the market. Derivatives can be based on different types of assets such as commodities, equities (stocks), bonds, interest rates, exchange rates, or indexes (such as a stock market index, consumer price index (CPI) — see inflation derivatives — or even an index of weather conditions, or other derivatives). Their performance can determine both the amount and the timing of the pay-offs.

* 1 Uses
o 1.1 Hedging
o 1.2 Speculation and arbitrage
* 2 Types of derivatives
o 2.1 OTC and exchange-traded
o 2.2 Common derivative contract types
o 2.3 Examples
* 3 Portfolio
* 4 Cash flow
* 5 Valuation
o 5.1 Market and arbitrage-free prices
o 5.2 Determining the market price
o 5.3 Determining the arbitrage-free price
* 6 Criticisms
o 6.1 Possible large losses
o 6.2 Counter-party risk
o 6.3 Unsuitably high risk for small/inexperienced investors
o 6.4 Large notional value
o 6.5 Leverage of an economy's debt
* 7 Benefits
* 8 Definitions
* 9 References
* 10 See also
* 11 External links

[edit] Uses

[edit] Hedging

One use of derivatives is to be used as a tool to transfer risk by taking the opposite position in the underlying asset. For example, a wheat farmer and a wheat miller could enter into a futures contract to exchange cash for wheat in the future. Both parties have reduced a future risk: for the wheat farmer, the uncertainty of the price, and for the wheat miller, the availability of wheat.

Also, stock index futures and options are known as derivative products because they derive their existence from actual market indices, but have no intrinsic characteristics of their own. In addition to that, one of the reasons some believe they lead to greater market volatility is that huge amounts of securities can be controlled by relatively small amounts of margin or option premiums. One reason derivatives are popular is because they can be transacted off-balance-sheet.

It must be pointed out that a primary producer (farmer, mining company, etc.) is unable to hedge in the strictest definition (eliminate risk). The producer is able to price fix the commodity by selling futures or by buying/writing options. This in no way eliminates market exposure. Example, a gold miner sells his future output by selling futures contracts. At the time he executes this position, gold is $900/troy ounce. He sells futures for ~$905/t.o.(assuming a normal/contango market, as high demand for gold can lead to backwardation,). If in 6 months the price of gold is $1000/t.o. he would have been better off not "price fixing". So there still is market exposure. This same scenario applies to a consumer.

The strictest absolute hedging practice is employed by a Merchant Banker who buys in the cash/physical market and sells in the futures market. When he later sells his commodity in the cash market and covers his futures contract(s), he has held the asset without market exposure. This can also be accomplished in conjunction with puts and calls by managing the hedge ratio (delta) to neutral.
Derivatives traders at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Derivatives traders at the Chicago Board of Trade.

[edit] Speculation and arbitrage

Speculators may trade with other speculators as well as with hedgers. In most financial derivatives markets, the value of speculative trading is far higher than the value of true hedge trading.[citation needed] As well as outright speculation, derivatives traders may also look for arbitrage opportunities between different derivatives on identical or closely related underlying securities.

In addition to directional plays (i.e. simply betting on the direction of the underlying security), speculators can use derivatives to place bets on the volatility of the underlying security. This technique is commonly used when speculating with traded options.

Speculative trading in derivatives gained a great deal of notoriety in 1995 when Nick Leeson, a trader at Barings Bank, made poor and unauthorized investments in index futures. Through a combination of poor judgement on his part, lack of oversight by management, a naive regulatory environment and unfortunate outside events like the Kobe earthquake, Leeson incurred a $1.3 billion loss that bankrupted the centuries-old financial institution.[citation needed]

created by prime3end on Sep 29, 2008 at 10:50:53 am     Comments: 6

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Comments ... #

Speculation... gambling on gambling on gambling on real life.

posted by charlatan on Sep 29, 2008 at 07:22:59 pm     #  

The most recent figure I could find for the global derivatives market was $516 trillion as of the first half of 2007, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Derivatives, as charlatan noted, are the ultimate in investment gambling. They do not represent traditional investments in stocks and bonds, both of which admittedly cotain an element of notional value and enough speculators to believe they have value. Still, at least a share of stock ostensibly could virtually represent a couple of pallets of merchandise in a factory, or the tires on the forklift used to move the pallets to a semi.

Instead, their values are "derived" from the value of other financial commodities. This makes derivatives removed from direct connection to a physical commodity, and their value is especially fictional.

Now, quite a few investors are comfortable with derivative investments, but no less than Warren Buffet has described derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction", and he has consistently spoken out against the increasing dissociation between an invested dollar and the abstract values of derivatives:

"I believe we may not know where exactly the danger begins and at what point it becomes a super danger. We don't know when it will end precisely, some point some very unpleasant things will happen in markets."

posted by historymike on Sep 29, 2008 at 08:29:23 pm     #  

Here's a good explanation . I think $400 trillion is a bit high, but America is in about 50$ trillion of public and government pension fund debt, so maybe? Hard to say as derivatives aren't on a company's balance sheet, but I'd believe that the $400 trillion number is a stab in the dark.

posted by JJFad on Sep 29, 2008 at 08:29:57 pm     #  

From what I can dig up, the mortgage debt ,, lets say its only 700 billion,,, only my ass,, but only 700 billion,, they then wrap these morgages into a series of stock offerings from bbb to A's ratings,, higher risk and return at the bottom, lower return and less risk at the top for a higher premium. So far so good, but its essentially selling paper on debt. Somehow they can turn 700 billion in debt into stock worth 400 trillion and get people to buy it. All this shit needs to be forbidden and a lot of wall street hacks taken to jail for a long time, especially the deregulation republicons who keep the regulated community fully in charge of the regulations. Fox Henhouse and chickens turned to fox shit.

posted by prime3end on Sep 30, 2008 at 04:51:33 am     #  

Where were all the congressional and senate people who where supposed to have oversight on banking and finance. Last I heard since congress and senate were under the big D weren't they in charge? Did they do nothing to stop this from happening or warn anyone? Dont get me wrong there is enough blame to go around but dont just throw it on the Republicans. Think after this term limits are looking more and more desirable. Maybe some recalls, definately some cleaning out of the deadwood. Too bad they cant get their pensions and benefits revoked as well.

posted by Linecrosser on Sep 30, 2008 at 01:53:16 pm     #  

The big D as you call it , haven't been in control of the senate as the republicans have already pulled out their little phillibuster dicks about 90 times since the dems got a simple majority. It takes a supermajority to get around nazi shitbag republicon love for America destroying deregulation love.

posted by prime3end on Oct 01, 2008 at 04:26:47 pm     #