Archive for the 'Options' Category

Credit Exposures for Derivative Contracts

Derivative agreements are contracts between two parties, under which at least one of the parties faces a financial obligation to the other. Each counterparty to a contract can be subjected to credit risk, or the possibility that the other party fails to meet its obigation.

In a forward contract, commitments are made at the contract outset but settlement is due at expiration. Consider an agreement under which party A agrees to buy the S&P 500 index from party B for 1,500 in one year. If  the S&P 500 is at 1,400, party A owes party B 100, and party B faces potential credit risk (prior to settlement) and actual credit risk (at the time of settlement.) When the S&P 500 is higher than 1,500 it is party A that is subject to credit risk.

Swap contracts are similar to a series of forward contracts, with interim payments occurring along the way. Each payment exposes one party to credit risk. As each payment is made, the total potential credit risk is reduced.

Option contracts have unilateral credit risk – only the seller is obligated to make a payment, so only the buyer is exposed to credit risk once the initial premium has been paid.

Posted on 29th November 2008
Under: Derivatives, Futures, Investing in Commodities, Options, Portfolio Management, Risk Management, Swaps | No Comments »

Implied Volatility and Future Portfolio Returns

The level of the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) has been shown to predict returns on equity indexes, implying either that VIX variables are priced risk factors or that markets are inefficient. In the October 2007 Journal of Banking and Finance, Banerjee, Doran and Peterson show that this relationship is strongest for high-beta portfolios.

Studies have shown that high volatility index scores are positively related to future stock market returns. In an efficient market, an observable variable such as the VIX should not have predictive power. The authors confirm that the predictive power exists, and offer support for both the market inefficiency and the priced risk arguments.

Posted on 9th August 2008
Under: Active Management, Institutional Investing, Investing in Stocks, Investment Returns, Options, Portfolio Management | No Comments »

Information Content of the Option Volatility Skew

Deep out-of-money options tend to trade with higher implied volatility than near-money options, a phenomenon known as the volatility skew. In the October 2007 Journal of Futures Markets, Doran, Peterson and Tarrant extend this observation to ask whether the implied volatility skew becomes more positive immediately prior to a market spike or more negative immediately prior to a market crash.

They find that at the short end of the term structure, the skew does give information regarding an impending crash. There is less information conveyed from positive skew. Further along the term structure, information content from volatility skew is weak.

Posted on 5th May 2008
Under: Derivatives, Economic Analysis, Investment Returns, Options, Research | No Comments »

Managing Credit Risk Associated With Derivative Contracts

Derivative contracts are agreements between two parties to pay a cash flow or series of cash flows based on the value of some underlying instrument. Whenever one of the counterparties is owed a cash flow that party faces credit risk: the chance that the other party will fail to honor its obligation. There are a number of ways firms dealing with a large number of derivative contracts can manage this risk.

Position limits are simply pre-set guidelines on how much exposure can be allocated to a given party. The limits could be in dollar terms, a percentage of the notional value of total contracts, or based on other factors (such as allocating a higher limit to more trusted parties.)

Certain futures contracts are periodically “marked to market,” a process by which the interim differences in value are settled before the contracts expire. The associated mark to market payments are smaller and more frequent, reducing the credit risk compared to a single large payment at the end of the contract. The most one party could lose is the change in value during the time since the last mark to market.

Collateral such as margin are required for many contracts. The margin is a small percentage of the notional value kept in escrow. Usually if the margin falls to a specific percentage of how much is actually owed, either more margin must be put up or the margin is paid out and the contract terminated.

Netting procedures are set up for most contracts so that if both parties owe something only the difference (the net payment) is made by the party owing the larger amount. This reduces the credit risk and causes it to apply only to the party owed the larger amount.

Traditional credit analysis techniques can be used to vet counterparties according to credit standards at the outset of a contract. However, if the contract is long-term in nature the credit quality can change during the contract life.

Finally, there are a number of credit derivatives that can be used to transfer specific aspects of credit risk to other parties willing to accept the risk.

Posted on 3rd January 2008
Under: Derivatives, Futures, Options, Risk Management, Swaps | No Comments »