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Indian Derivatives Market

As the initial step towards introduction of derivatives trading in India, SEBI set up a 24–member committee under the Chairmanship of Dr L C Gupta on November 18, 1996 to develop appropriate regulatory framework for derivatives trading in India. The committee submitted its report on March 17, 1998 recommending that derivatives should be declared as ‘securities’ so that regulatory framework applicable to trading of ‘securities’ could also govern trading of derivatives. Subsequently, SEBI set up a group in June 1998 under the Chairmanship of Prof. J R Verma, to recommend measures for risk containment in derivatives market in India. The committee submitted its report in October 1998. It worked out the operational details of margining system, methodology for charging initial margins, membership details and net worth criterion, deposit requirements and real time monitoring of positions requirements. In 1999, The Securities Contract Regulation Act (SCRA) was amended to include “derivatives” within the domain of ‘securities’ and regulatory framework was developed for governing derivatives trading. In March 2000, government repealed a three-decade-old notification, which prohibited forward trading in securities. The exchange traded derivatives started in India in June 2000 with SEBI permitting BSE and NSE to deal in equity derivative segment. To begin with, SEBI approved trading in index futures contracts based on S&P CNX Nifty and BSE–30 Sensex index, which commenced trading in June 2000. Later, trading in Index options commenced in June 2001 and trading in options on individual stocks commenced in July 2001. Futures contracts on individual stocks started in November 2001. In July 2012, SEBI has granted permission to MCX-SX to deal in equity derivatives.

Products in Derivatives Market

  • Forwards

It is a contractual agreement between two parties to buy/sell an underlying asset at a certain future date for a particular price that is pre-decided on the date of contract. Both the contracting parties are committed and are obliged to honour the transaction irrespective of price of the underlying asset at the time of delivery. Since forwards are negotiated between two parties, the terms and conditions of contracts are customized. These are OTC contracts.

  • Futures

A futures contract is similar to a forward, except that the deal is made through an organized and regulated exchange rather than being negotiated directly between two parties. Indeed, we may say futures are exchange traded forward contracts.

  • Options

An Option is a contract that gives the right, but not an obligation, to buy or sell the underlying on or before a stated date and at a stated price. While buyer of option pays the premium and buys the right, writer/seller of option receives the premium with obligation to sell/ buy the underlying asset, if the buyer exercises his right.

  • Swaps

A swap is an agreement made between two parties to exchange cash flows in the future according to a prearranged formula. Swaps are series of forward contracts. Swaps help market participants manage risk associated with volatile interest rates, currency exchange rates and commodity prices.

Market Participants

There are broadly three types of participants in the derivatives market - hedgers, traders (also called speculators) and arbitrageurs. An individual may play different roles in different market circumstances.

  • Hedgers

They face risk associated with the prices of underlying assets and use derivatives to reduce their risk. Corporations, investing institutions and banks all use derivative products to hedge or reduce their exposures to market variables such as interest rates, share values, bond prices, currency exchange rates and commodity prices.

  • Speculators

They try to predict the future movements in prices of underlying assets and based on the view, take positions in derivative contracts. Derivatives are preferred over underlying asset for speculation purpose, as they offer leverage, are less expensive (cost of transaction is generally lower than that of the underlying) and are faster to execute in size (high volumes market).

  • Arbitrageurs

Arbitrage is a deal that produces profit by exploiting a price difference in a product in two different markets. Arbitrage originates when a trader purchases an asset cheaply in one location and simultaneously arranges to sell it at a higher price in another location. Such opportunities are unlikely to persist for very long, since arbitrageurs would rush in to these transactions, thus closing the price gap at different locations. 

Types of Derivatives Market

In the modern world, there is a huge variety of derivative products available. They are either traded on organized exchanges (called exchange traded derivatives) or agreed directly between the contracting counterparties over the telephone or through electronic media (called Over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives). Few complex products are constructed on simple building blocks like forwards, futures, options and swaps to cater to the specific requirements of customers. Over-the-counter market is not a physical marketplace but a collection of broker-dealers scattered across the country. Main idea of the market is more a way of doing business than a place. Buying and selling of contracts is matched through negotiated bidding process over a network of telephone or electronic media that link thousands of intermediaries. OTC derivative markets have witnessed a substantial growth over the past few years, very much contributed by the recent developments in information technology. The OTC derivative markets have banks, financial institutions and sophisticated market participants like hedge funds, corporations and high net-worth individuals. OTC derivative market is less regulated market because these transactions occur in private among qualified counterparties, who are supposed to be capable enough to take care of themselves. The OTC derivatives markets – transactions among the dealing counterparties, have following features compared to exchange traded derivatives:

  • Contracts are tailor made to fit in the specific requirements of dealing counterparties.
  • The management of counter-party (credit) risk is decentralized and located within individual institutions.
  • There are no formal centralized limits on individual positions, leverage, or margining.
  • There are no formal rules or mechanisms for risk management to ensure market stability and integrity, and for safeguarding the collective interest of market participants.
  • Transactions are private with little or no disclosure to the entire market.

On the contrary, exchange-traded contracts are standardized, traded on organized exchanges with prices determined by the interaction of buyers and sellers through anonymous auction platform. A clearing house/ clearing corporation, guarantees contract performance (settlement of transactions).

Significance of Derivatives

Like other segments of Financial Market, Derivatives Market serves following specific functions:

  • Derivatives market helps in improving price discovery based on actual valuations and expectations.
  • Derivatives market helps in transfer of various risks from those who are exposed to risk but have low risk appetite to participants with high risk appetite. For example hedgers want to give away the risk where as traders are willing to take risk.
  • Derivatives market helps shift of speculative trades from unorganized market to organized market. Risk management mechanism and surveillance of activities of various participants in organized space provide stability to the financial system.

Various risk faced by the participants in Derivatives

Market Participants must understand that derivatives, being leveraged instruments, have risks like counterparty risk (default by counterparty), price risk (loss on position because of price move), liquidity risk (inability to exit from a position), legal or regulatory risk (enforceability of contracts), operational risk (fraud, inadequate documentation, improper execution, etc.) and may not be an appropriate avenue for someone of limited resources, trading experience and low risk tolerance. A market participant should therefore carefully consider whether such trading is suitable for him/her based on these parameters. Market participants, who trade in derivatives are advised to carefully read the Model Risk Disclosure Document, given by the broker to his clients at the time of signing agreement.

Model Risk Disclosure Document is issued by the members of Exchanges and contains important information on trading in Equities and F&O Segments of exchanges. All prospective participants should read this document before trading on Capital Market/Cash Segment or F&O segment of the Exchanges.