Hedging involves taking an offsetting position in a derivative in order to balance any gains and losses to the underlying asset. Hedging attempts to eliminate the volatility associated with the price of an asset by taking offsetting positions contrary to what the investor currently has. The main purpose of speculation, on the other hand, is to profit from betting on the direction in which an asset will be moving.

Hedgers reduce their risk by taking an opposite position in the market to what they are trying to hedge. The ideal situation in hedging would be to cause one effect to cancel out another. For example, assume that a company specializes in producing jewelry and it has a major contract due in six months, for which gold is one of the company's main inputs. The company is worried about the volatility of the gold market and believes that gold prices may increase substantially in the near future. In order to protect itself from this uncertainty, the company could buy a six-month futures contract in gold. This way, if gold experiences a 10% price increase, the futures contract will lock in a price that will offset this gain. As you can see, although hedgers are protected from any losses, they are also restricted from any gains. Depending on a company's policies and the type of business it runs, it may choose to hedge against certain business operations to reduce fluctuations in its profit and protect itself from any downside risk.

Speculators make bets or guesses on where they believe the market is headed. For example, if a speculator believes that a stock is overpriced, he or she may short sell the stock and wait for the price of the stock to decline, at which point he or she will buy back the stock and receive a profit. Speculators are vulnerable to both the downside and upside of the market; therefore, speculation can be extremely risky.

Overall, hedgers are seen as risk averse and speculators are typically seen as risk lovers. Hedgers try to reduce the risks associated with uncertainty, while speculators bet against the movements of the market to try to profit from fluctuations in the price of securities.

  1. Can mutual funds invest in options and futures?

    Mutual funds invest in not only stocks and fixed-income securities but also options and futures. There exists a separate ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do futures contracts roll over?

    Traders roll over futures contracts to switch from the front month contract that is close to expiration to another contract ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is there a difference between financial spread betting and arbitrage?

    Financial spread betting is a type of speculation that involves a highly leveraged derivative product, whereas arbitrage ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Why do companies enter into futures contracts?

    Different types of companies may enter into futures contracts for different purposes. The most common reason is to hedge ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What does a futures contract cost?

    The value of a futures contract is derived from the cash value of the underlying asset. While a futures contract may have ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How can I hedge my portfolio to protect from a decline in the food and beverage sector?

    The food and beverage sector exhibits greater volatility than the broader market and tends to suffer larger-than-average ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing Basics

    What Does Plain Vanilla Mean?

    Plain vanilla is a term used in investing to describe the most basic types of financial instruments.
  2. Investing

    Oil: Why Not to Put Faith in Forecasts

    West Texas Intermediate oil futures have recently made pronounced movements. What do they bode for the world market?
  3. Economics

    Is the U.S. Economy Ready for Liftoff?

    The Fed continues to delay normalizing rates, citing inflation concerns and “global economic and financial developments” in explaining its rationale.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Using Short ETFs to Battle a Down Market

    Instead of selling your stocks to get gains, consider a short selling strategy, specifically one that uses short ETFs that help manage the risk.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The Risks of Investing in Inverse ETFs

    Discover analyses of the risks inherent to inverse exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that investors must understand before considering an investment in this type of ETF.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 4 Inverse Equities ETFs

    Explore analysis of some of the most popular inverse and leveraged-inverse ETFs that track equity indexes, and learn about the suitability of these ETFs.
  7. Investing

    Watch Your Duration When Rates Rise

    While recent market volatility is leading investors to look for the nearest exit, here are some suggestions for bond exposure in attractive sectors.
  8. Investing

    A Quick Explanation of How Short Selling Works

    Explanations of short selling can be hard to grasp. Here is a quick, realistic example.
  9. Chart Advisor

    Downtrending Stocks to Short or Sell

    These stocks are trending lower and currently near a short sale areas, based on breaks lower and falling stock indexes.
  10. Chart Advisor

    Second Chance Entries Into Completed Double Tops

    These stocks have already completed double top chart patterns, and are right now offering a second chance to trade it.
  1. Implied Volatility - IV

    The estimated volatility of a security's price.
  2. Plain Vanilla

    The most basic or standard version of a financial instrument, ...
  3. Derivative

    A security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from ...
  4. Inverse Transaction

    A transaction that can cancel out a forward contract that has ...
  5. Bear Closing

    Purchasing a security, currency, or commodity in order to close ...
  6. Best To Deliver

    The security that is delivered by the short position holder in ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  2. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  3. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  4. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
  6. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's costs of production by assessing the input costs of each step ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!