What is equity derivatives?

What is equity derivatives?

What is equity derivatives?



Equity derivatives are financial instruments that derive their value from an underlying equity security. These derivatives are widely used by investors and traders to manage risk, speculate on price movements, and enhance investment returns. In this article, we will explore the concept of equity derivatives in detail, discussing their types, uses, and key features.

Types of Equity Derivatives

1. Options: Equity options are contracts that give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call option) or sell (put option) a specific quantity of the underlying equity at a predetermined price within a specified time period. Options provide flexibility to investors, allowing them to profit from both rising and falling equity prices.

2. Futures: Equity futures contracts obligate the buyer to purchase, and the seller to sell, a specific quantity of the underlying equity at a predetermined price and future date. Futures provide a standardized and regulated marketplace for trading equity derivatives, allowing investors to speculate on price movements or hedge existing positions.

3. Swaps: Equity swaps involve the exchange of cash flows based on the performance of an underlying equity. In an equity swap, two parties agree to exchange the returns of an equity, allowing one party to benefit from the price appreciation while the other party receives a fixed or variable rate of return.

Uses of Equity Derivatives

1. Risk Management: Equity derivatives are commonly used by investors and institutions to manage risk. For example, portfolio managers may use options to protect their equity holdings against potential downturns in the market. By purchasing put options, they can limit their losses if the market declines.

2. Speculation: Traders and speculators use equity derivatives to profit from anticipated price movements. By taking positions in options or futures contracts, they can amplify their returns if their predictions are correct. However, it’s important to note that derivatives trading involves significant risks and should be approached with caution.

3. Hedging: Equity derivatives can be used to hedge existing positions. For instance, an investor who owns a portfolio of stocks may use equity futures to protect against potential declines in the market. By taking a short position in futures contracts, they can offset any losses in their equity holdings.

Key Features of Equity Derivatives

Leverage: Equity derivatives allow investors to control a larger position with a smaller upfront investment. This leverage can amplify both profits and losses, making derivatives trading a high-risk endeavor.

Expiration Dates: Options and futures contracts have expiration dates, after which they become worthless. Traders need to be aware of these dates and manage their positions accordingly.

Volatility: Equity derivatives are influenced by market volatility. Higher volatility generally leads to higher option premiums and wider futures price swings.

Margin Requirements: Trading equity derivatives often requires margin, which is a deposit or collateral that traders must maintain with their brokers to cover potential losses. Margin requirements vary depending on the type of derivative and the broker’s policies.


Equity derivatives play a crucial role in financial markets, providing investors and traders with a wide range of tools to manage risk, speculate on price movements, and hedge their positions. Options, futures, and swaps are the most common types of equity derivatives, each serving different purposes. However, it’s important to understand the risks associated with derivatives trading and approach it with caution.


– Investopedia: www.investopedia.com
– Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME): www.cmegroup.com
– International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA): www.isda.org