Factors contributing to the growth of derivatives

Factors contributing to the explosive growth of derivatives are price volatility, globalization of the markets, technological developments and advances in the financial theories.

1. Price Volatility

A price is what one pays to acquire or use something of value. The objects having value maybe commodities, local currency or foreign currencies.  The concept of price is clear to almost everybody when we discuss commodities. There is a price to be paid for the purchase of food grain, oil, petrol, metal, etc. the price one pays for use of a unit of another persons money is called interest rate. And the price one pays in one’s own currency for a unit of another currency is called as an exchange rate.

Prices are generally determined by market forces. In a market, consumers have ‘demand’ and producers or suppliers have ‘supply’, and the collective interaction of demand and supply in the market determines the price. These factors are constantly interacting in the market causing changes in the price over a short period of time. Such changes in the price are known as ‘price volatility’. This has three factors: the speed of price changes, the frequency of price changes and the magnitude of price changes.

The changes in demand and supply influencing factors culminate in market adjustments through price changes. These price changes expose individuals, producing firms and governments to significant risks. The break down of the BRETTON WOODS agreement brought and end to the stabilizing role of fixed exchange rates and the gold convertibility of the dollars. The globalization of the markets and rapid industrialization of many underdeveloped countries brought a new scale and dimension to the markets. Nations that were poor suddenly became a major source of supply of goods. The Mexican crisis in the south east-Asian currency crisis of 1990’s has also brought the price volatility factor on the surface. The advent of telecommunication and data processing bought information very quickly to the markets. Information which would have taken months to impact the market earlier can now be obtained in matter of moments. Even equity holders are exposed to price risk of corporate share fluctuates rapidly.

This price volatility risk pushed the use of derivatives like futures and options increasingly as these instruments can be used as hedge to protect against adverse price changes in commodity, foreign exchange, equity shares and bonds.

2. Globalization of the Markets

Earlier, managers had to deal with domestic economic concerns; what happened in other part of the world was mostly irrelevant. Now globalization has increased the size of markets and as greatly enhanced competition .it has benefited consumers who cannot obtain better quality goods at a lower cost. It has also exposed the modern business to significant risks and, in many cases, led to cut profit margins

In Indian context, south East Asian currencies crisis of 1997 had affected the competitiveness of our products vis-à-vis depreciated currencies. Export of certain goods from India declined because of this crisis. Steel industry in 1998 suffered its worst set back due to cheap import of steel from south East Asian countries. Suddenly blue chip companies had turned in to red. The fear of china devaluing its currency created instability in Indian exports. Thus, it is evident that globalization of industrial and financial activities necessitates use of derivatives to guard against future losses. This factor alone has contributed to the growth of derivatives to a significant extent.

3. Technological Advances

A significant growth of derivative instruments has been driven by technological break through.  Advances in this area include the development of high speed processors, network systems and enhanced method of data entry. Closely related to advances in computer technology are advances in telecommunications. Improvement in communications allow for instantaneous world wide conferencing, Data transmission by satellite. At the same time there were significant advances in software programmed without which computer and telecommunication advances would be meaningless. These facilitated the more rapid movement of information and consequently its instantaneous impact on market price.

Although price sensitivity to market forces is beneficial to the economy as a whole resources are rapidly relocated to more productive use and better rationed overtime the greater price volatility exposes producers and consumers to greater price risk. The effect of this risk can easily destroy a business which is otherwise well managed. Derivatives can help a firm manage the price risk inherent in a market economy. To the extent the technological developments increase volatility, derivatives and risk management products become that much more important.

4. Advances in Financial Theories

Advances in financial theories gave birth to derivatives. Initially forward contracts in its traditional form, was the only hedging tool available. Option pricing models developed by Black and Scholes in 1973 were used to determine prices of call and put options. In late 1970’s, work of Lewis Edeington extended the early work of Johnson and started the hedging of financial price risks with financial futures. The work of economic theorists gave rise to new products for risk management which led to the growth of derivatives in financial markets.

The above factors in combination of lot many factors led to growth of derivatives instruments.

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