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What is a derivative?

A derivative is a security which monetizes the risk or volatility associated with a reference asset. Derivatives derive their value from speculation surrounding an underlying or reference asset. The reference asset could be another security, an interest rate, or an index, for example, but there are also derivatives based on future weather patterns. Derivatives come in many forms; examples include options, swaps, and futures. Some derivatives trade on exchanges and some are Over-the-Counter (OTC). Derivatives might be used for speculation or hedging. Continue reading...

What are credit derivatives?

Stemming from the hedging strategy of Credit Default Swaps, an entire speculative derivatives market continues to grow, in which tranches of credit risk and indices are traded. With the ballooning of consumer credit in recent years, it is only natural that a credit derivatives market would follow it. In essence, the risk associated with a loan or bond is separated from the actual asset and is passed on to a counter-party for a premium, and then other market participants become involved, perhaps in the form of futures contracts or other derivatives. Continue reading...

What are Double and Triple ETFs?

Double and triple ETFs are also known as leveraged ETFs, and their goal is to magnify the performance of the index they follow. Using futures contracts and other derivative instruments, 2x or 3x ETFs attempt to magnify the performance of an index, with the goal of achieving the result daily. Because they also compound daily, they are not usually held for more than a few days. These are also called leveraged ETFs because they use margin, futures contracts, and other derivative instruments to give an investor this magnified exposure. They give you two or three times (respectively) the profits but also two or three times the losses, so one must be very cautious when dealing with them. Continue reading...

What are futures contracts?

Futures contracts constitute a binding agreement to trade a commodity, share, or instrument at a future date at an agreed-upon price. They are auctioned on regulated futures exchanges. Futures contracts are used primarily to deal with agricultural assets and natural resources but have come into use for anything that can be commoditized, including financial instruments and technological resources. Continue reading...

What does open interest mean?

Open interest is a measurement of the outstanding open positions in a derivative security. Strong open interest means the derivative will have high liquidity. Open Interest is not the same thing as Trading Volume, but it does give an indication of liquidity and activity in a derivative. Open Interest is the number of open positions for a derivative, like an option. The Options Clearing Corporation tallies up the ‘open interest’ numbers, but they are not posted until the morning following the count. Open Interest isn't necessarily indicative of a bullish or bearish forecast for the underlying security, but it does generally mean that the option will have high liquidity and that a seller will be able to find a buyer. Continue reading...

What is the CME?

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, now known as the CME group, is the largest derivatives exchange in the world, and one of the oldest. It has historically served as a major international exchange for commodities futures and options on those futures, along with the Chicago Board of Trade and the New York Mercantile Exchange, which are now part of the CME Group. The CME Group is now comprised of what used to be several futures exchanges: CME, the CBOT, and the NYMEX. Historically these markets traded in traditional commodities and their futures, and Chicago was the most likely location for such an exchange, being at the hub of the Midwest. Continue reading...

What is triple witching?

Triple witching hour is when three types of derivatives expire at once, which happens once every quarter in the US. It typically results in irregular or volatile movements in the markets. When stock market index futures, stock market index options and stock options all expire at the same time, the hour before close is called the Triple Witching Hour. This occurs on the third Friday of March, June, September, and December in the United States between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM Eastern time. Continue reading...

What are some Key Numbers Related to the World Capital Markets?

As of 2014, global GDP was $77 trillion. The total market capitalization of all world stock markets is approximately $70 trillion, and about a fourth of that amount is the U.S. market. The U.S. economy is the largest by GDP, which for 'fiscal year' (FY) 2016 was approximately $19 trillion. The total value of notional derivatives fell to $18.1 trillion. How Many Dollars do We Have in Circulation? What is Currency in Circulation? Continue reading...

What is a strike price?

A strike price names the price of the underlying security in options or derivative contract at which the underlying security will trade at settlement if it is exercised. In a call option, for example, the option would name a strike price, and if the current market price of the underlying security was more than the strike price, an investor who held the call contract would invoke his right to purchase the stock from the issuer/seller of the option at the strike price, which, remember is lower than the prevailing market price in this example, and the investor can turn around and sell it in the market at or near its most recent, and higher, price, for a profit. Continue reading...

What is a commodities futures contract?

Commodities Futures are one of the most highly traded securities in the world, and it is partially because nothing has to be delivered by the participants as in a spot-trading market. Futures can be purchased on margin, opening up large positions, long or short, and if a trader finds a place to exit before the settlement date of the contract, the trader will buy/sell to close his or her position, and the exchange will regard the trader’s position as flat, and nonexistent for all intents and purposes. Continue reading...

What is an 'expiration date' in reference to option trading?

An ‘expiration date’ refers to the time when an option contract must either be acted upon by the owner (buying or selling the security in question) or left to expire. With derivatives such as options and futures, there will be an expiry, or expiration date in the contract, after which they expire worthlessly. Most options contracts will expire in 3, 6 or 9 months from when they are generated, and they all share the same expiration day of the month on their contracts in the United States, which is the 3rd Friday of the month at 4 PM. Continue reading...

How to use Open Interest in trading

Open interest, or OI, can be a very important number for futures, options, and other derivative markets, but it can also be important to traders in the traditional stock market. Open interest in derivatives of stocks indicates that there is a deep market for the stock itself, since many of the positions may eventually require the purchase of the stock. Increases and decreases in open interest may help a trader understand if there's significant action in a security's price movements, which can determine liquidity needs as well as whether the price movements are rooted in actual supply and demand characteristics. Continue reading...

What does net long mean?

Investors are net long when they own more long positions than short positions in a security, derivative, or fund. It could mean that a fund manager, for instance, is net long on all of the holdings in the funds, i.e., the fund holds more long positions than short positions. Some funds could be the opposite and be net short. A long position - or to be “long a stock” - means that an investor has share ownership and will receive economic benefit if the share price rises, and vice versa. Creating and maintaining a long position is simple: an investor buys and owns the investment. Some asset managers will employ a “long-only” strategy, only buying and selling securities in the portfolio as a management strategy - they will not use options or shorting strategies as a result. Continue reading...

What is foreign exchange risk?

Foreign Exchange Risk is the possibility that exchange rates will move against you when you have pending payment on transactions in another currency or other investment positions in foreign currencies or foreign assets which will be affected by Forex fluctuations. Foreign Exchange Risk can also be called Forex risk, and it is the potential loss to an investor or institution when doing business in a foreign currency if the exchange rate swings unfavorably. Companies and countries take various measures to hedge against exchange rate risk, including holding reserves of other currencies and buying derivative contracts on various currency pairs. Continue reading...

Learn Options Trading

Options are contracts used by investors to take a speculative position – or a hedge – based on expected future price movements of the underlying securities. An option is a contract which can be exercised if the price of an underlying security moves favorably. An option will be written or sold short by one investor and bought by another. It will name the strike price at which the security can be bought or sold before the expiration of the contract. Continue reading...

Should I use options in my portfolio?

Options can be a valuable tool in portfolio management, but investors should be well-versed in how options work, and the risks involved, before actively engaging in options trading. Options can provide you a hedge, or provide the potential for unlimited gains or losses. They can also give you a relatively conservative income stream. Proper use of options can be highly profitable, but requires some level of expertise and a watchful eye. Continue reading...

What is an Accelerated Return Note (ARN)?

An accelerated return note (ARN) is an unsecured debt instrument that uses derivatives to offer leveraged returns and minimal loss exposure to retail investors. Accelerated Return Notes came onto the scene around 2010-2012. They are a form of structured note marketed primarily by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. They were packaged as offering “accelerated” returns on familiar indexes and stocks. The way such returns are generated is by taking up 2x or 3x positions in calls and futures on the index or stock of choice. Continue reading...

What is a market neutral fund?

Market neutral funds might be hedge funds or mutual funds or ETFs whose strategy is not based on bullish or bearish market predictions but instead seeks to be in a position to profit whether the market goes up or down. Most mutual funds and ETFs out there are inherently bullish — you invest in those funds because you believe or hope that the industry or geographic region or cap-size that they invest in will grow in the future. Some funds offer bears a place to hole-up when the bubble inevitably bursts (or so they think). Continue reading...

What is currency exchange?

Currencies can be exchanged for other currencies, and there are more reasons to do this than most people realize. People are familiar with the currency exchange in the context of tourists stopping by a currency exchange kiosk so that they can buy trinkets at the local tourist traps, but the Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, where currencies are traded, is the largest market in the world by far. Currencies are exchanged for each other on a massive scale on the international Forex market. Thousands of banks connect through electronic trading systems which are part of the interbank forex market. Millions of smaller-scale traders and individuals also engage in Forex trading, either over-the-counter or on regulated international exchanges. Continue reading...

What are Bear Market Funds?

Bear market funds are designed to profit when the market or sector they follow declines. Bear Market Funds make money in declining markets, as opposed to Bull Market Funds. If you’re bearish on a sector, industry, commodity, the market, or anything else that’s tradable, rest assured that you’ll find a Bear Market Fund for it. There are also 2X Bear Market Funds, 3X Bear Market Funds, etc…, which use margin, short-selling, and derivative instruments to acquire large leveraged positions. Continue reading...