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# GUIDE TO FUTURES AND OPTIONS Most people have heard of futures and options but for many they

remain shrouded in mystery, forever to be known as dangerous instruments that should be left to the professionals. Well, the time has come to explain what these strange instruments are all about Futures Lets say that you have a 100 note and I asked to borrow it for a year and return the 100 note. Would you do it? Of course not because you could put the money in the bank and get a riskless rate of return of, say, 6% per year. That would mean that in a years time that 100 note is actually worth 106 to you. The future value of the 100 is 106 (assuming inflation is zero). That is the basic idea of a future, hence the name! What is the value to us now of the index/stock at the expiry date of the future? The expiry date is the date that the future ceases to exist The Definition: A futures contract is the obligation to buy the underlying instrument at a pre-determined price and date in the future. In the UK we only have futures on Index levels (some countries have futures on stocks). The standard contract size is 10 per index point - which means that each futures contract is worth the level of the index multiplied by 10, e.g. 6200 x 10 = 62,000 - but LIFFE have recently introduced a mini-future with a contract size of 5 per point that is aimed at the private investor. There are four expiry months March, June, September and December and the final value of the future is calculated on the third Friday of the month using what is called the EDSP (Exchange Derivative Settlement Price). This is calculated as follows: Between 10:10am and 10:30am the value of the index is taken every 15 seconds. Out of the total of 81 prints the highest and lowest 12 are discarded. The remaining 57 are averaged and this becomes the settlement price for the future. A calculation: E.g. its the 1st November and the FTSE 100 index is currently trading at 6200. What is the fair value of the December 2000 FTSE 100 index future? To work this out we need to know what the FTSE 100 index is worth to us on December 15th (3rd Friday in December). For that we need the interest rate so lets assume that you can borrow at 6%. There are a total of 44 days between the 1st of November and expiry day. So 6200 now is worth: V0*(1+Rt) (I.e. the value now + the interest you would get at 6%)

V0 is the value of the index now. R is the rate you can borrow at. t is the time between now and the expiry date, expressed as a fraction of a year. This works out to be 6245. So the future should be trading at 6245, right? Wrong. We have forgotten that stocks pay dividends and if we buy the future we get no dividends because we do not own a part of any company. This is where it gets complicated you find all the stocks that go ex-div between now and expiry and turn them into index points (in the same way as you turn company market capitalisations into index

points). Since you dont know how much the dividend will be you use forecast estimates. Lets assume that there are 20 dividend points. Therefore the future should be trading at 6225. The difference between the level of the market and the theoretical value of the future is known as the basis. The future does not have to trade at theoretical value, but it must be close. Otherwise you could buy one and sell the other and make a riskless profit. This is known as arbitrage. Forwards: A forward is much like a future, except that it is a contract drawn up by two people. Whereas a future is guaranteed by the exchange, a forward is not. A future has four expiry months, but the two people drawing up the forward contract agree an expiry date. The place, time, quantity, price are all set by the two people drawing up the contract and it is also very unusual for a forward contract to be sold on, but of course you can sell a future. Some points about futures:

1. Since the basis is dependent on the interest rate if interest rates were to change the future would
change. That means that if you trade futures you have exposure to interest rates.

2. The basis is also dependent on dividends. If these are different from forecasts, again the basis will
change. Therefore, you have dividend risk too. People also have different forecasts, so what appears to be fairly valued to one investor may be cheaper/more expensive to another who uses different dividends forecasts. 3. The near-month FTSE 100 future (the one with the closest expiry date) is very liquid, meaning the spread is usually only a point or two. 4. Futures are often used to hedge since it is easier to trade a future and gain exposure to the whole market than buy every share in the FTSE 100, which would incur large transaction costs and mean larger spreads. 5. Futures are used extensively in the commodities market for hedging. For example, if a wheat farmer wanted to guarantee his income at harvest he could hedge with a wheat futures contract. Options What if there was a way that you could gain exposure to a share/market for a small amount of capital, but if it all went horribly wrong you would only lose that capital? Well, there is a way and its called an option. There are two types of options calls and puts. The Definitions: A call is the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying asset at a pre-determined price and date. A put is the right, but not the obligation, to sell the underlying asset at a pre-determined price and date. Exercising the option is converting the option into the underlying asset. The strike price of an option is the price at which the option can be exercised; lets call this X. An in-the-money option has value if exercised now. An out-of-the-money option has no value if exercised now. An at-the-money option is where the strike price of the option is the same (or as close as possible) to the current underlying price.

1. Delta this is the change in option price relative to change in the price of the underlying asset. The
delta of a call option can be between 0 and +1. The delta of a put option can be between 0 and 1. The deltas of at the money options are approximately (they have equal chance of being in or outof-the-money at expiry). E.g. a call option is valued at 20p and has a delta of 0.2. The underlying asset goes up by 1p so the call option is now worth 20.2p.

2. Gamma The delta of an option is not constant. For a deep in-the-money call (put) it is unlikely that
it will be out-of-the-money at expiry so it moves like the underlying asset and has a delta of +1(-1). Similarly, if the option is deep out-of-the-money it is unlikely to end up in-the-money so has a delta of nearly 0. Gamma is the change in the delta of an option relative to the underlying asset. E.g. a call option has a delta of 0.6 and gamma of 0.08. If the underlying moves up 1p the delta of the call is now 0.68.

3. Tau The price of an option is dependent on the volatility of the underlying asset. Tau is a measure
of how the option value changes for changes in the volatility of the underlying asset.

4. Theta As the option expiry moves closer, there is less uncertainty about the final value of the
option so the option value decreases. Theta quantifies the decrease in option value over time. Note that it is not constant, but rather increases as the time to expiry decreases.

5. Rho Since the option value includes basis there is some dependence on interest rates. If interest
rates rise the basis increases. Rho quantifies the exposure to interest rates. Some Points About Options:

1. In general, private investors tend to want to use options as punts. They buy a deep out-of-themoney option for a relatively small amount in the hope that the underlying asset will move greatly in one direction or the other and the option suddenly becomes worth a lot more than was initially paid. Deep out-of-the-money options are called Tiny options.

2. Investment banks on the other hand trade the volatility value in the option. They hate selling Tiny
options because of the huge leverage so tend to price them with large spreads.

3. Various combinations of options can be used to create various payoffs at expiry. These strategies
are useful for different situations and include Straddles, Butterflies, Call Spreads, Put Spreads and many others. (See a book for what these are and what the payoffs look like.) Finally Although that seems a lot, it really is only a brief summary. If you are interested in using futures and options them we strongly advise that you undertake a course and/or read a few books. Options especially involve far more than is described above and this article is meant only as a base for further study. While both offer an exciting and useful dimension to the markets, both can be a painful way to lose a lot of money if not understood and respected.
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