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Derivatives is a lucrative financial instrument that allows investors to gain from the market volatility. Here you can make large gains by investing a lesser amount using the benefit of leverage. Futures and options are the two most common types of derivatives.

Understanding Derivatives

Investors use financial instruments such as Derivatives & Futures to hedge risks. These risks can be financial liabilities, commodity price fluctuations or other factors. Financially stronger companies or share market dealers accept these risks and use various strategies to make profits out of it.

What are Derivatives?

In the investment industry, a ‘Derivative’ is a contract whose price is decided on the basis of one or more underlying assets. The underlying asset can be a currency, stock, commodity or a security(that bears interest). Sometimes, Derivatives are also used for trading in specific sectors such as foreign exchange, equity,treasury bills, electricity, weather, temperature, etc. For example, Derivatives for the energy market are called Energy Derivatives.

According to the Securities Contract (Regulation) Act, 1956 the term “derivative” includes :

  • A security derived from a debt instrument, share, loan, whether secured or unsecured, risk instrument or contract for differences or any other form of security;

  • A contract which derives its value from the prices, or index of prices, of underlying Securities.

Types of Derivatives Contracts

Over the years, the types of derivatives contracts has evolved. The four basic types of Scottish Contracts are Futures, Options, Forwards and Swaps.


A futures contract is a special type of forward contract where an agreement is made between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a certain time in future at a particular price.


Options are contracts between a option writer and a buyer that gives the buyer the right to buy/sell the underlying such as assets, other derivatives etc. at a stated price on a given date. Here, the buyer pays the option premium to the option writer i.e the seller of the option. The option writer has to oblige if the buyer decides to exercise the right given through the options contract.


It is a customized contract between two parties wherein the settlement happens on a specific date in the future at a price agreed upon on the contract date.


Swaps are private contracts between two parties wherein an exchange of cashflows of the financial instruments owned by the parties takes place. The two commonly used swaps are:

Interest Rate Swaps

This involves swapping cash flows carrying interest in the same currency.

Currency Swaps

This type of allows the swap of cashflows with principal and interest in different currencies.

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