Types and Applications of Derivative Products
The emergence of the market for derivative products, most notably forwards, futures and options, can be traced back to the willingness of risk-averse economic agents to guard themselves against uncertainties arising out of fluctuations in asset prices.
By their very nature, the financial markets are marked by a very high degree of volatility. Through the use of derivative products, it is possible to partially or fully transfer price risks by locking-in asset prices. As instruments of risk management, these generally do not influence the fluctuations in the underlying asset prices. However, by locking-in asset prices, derivative products minimize the impact of fluctuations in asset prices on the profitability and cash flow situation of risk-averse investors.
Derivative products initially emerged as hedging devices against fluctuations in commodity prices and commodity-linked derivatives remained the sole form of such products for almost three hundred years.
Financial derivatives came into the spotlight in the post-1970 period due to growing instability in the financial markets. However, since their emergence, these products have become very popular and by the 1990s, they accounted for about two-thirds of total transactions in derivative products.
In recent years, the market for financial derivatives has grown tremendously, both in terms of variety of instruments available, their complexity and also turnover. In the class of equity derivatives, futures and options on stock indices have gained more popularity than on individual stocks, especially among institutional investors, who are major users of index-linked derivatives.
Even small investors find these useful due to high correlation of the popular indices with various portfolios and ease of use. The lower costs associated with index derivatives vis-vis derivative products based on individual securities is another reason for their growing use.