Derivatives Time Bomb


DEFINITION of 'Derivatives Time Bomb'

A possibile situation where the financial markets plunge into chaos if the massive derivatives positions owned by hedge funds and the large banks were to move against those parties.

Institutional investors have increasingly used derivatives to either hedge their existing positions, or to speculate on given markets or commodities. The growing popularity of these instruments is both good and bad because although derivatives can be used to mitigate portfolio risk. Institutions that are highly leveraged can suffer huge losses if their positions move against them.

BREAKING DOWN 'Derivatives Time Bomb'

A number of well-known hedge funds have imploded in recent years as their derivative positions declined dramatically in value, forcing them to sell their securities at markedly lower prices to meet margin calls and customer redemptions. One of the largest hedge funds to collapse in recent years as a result of adverse movements in its derivatives positions was Long Term Capital Management (LTCM).

Investors use the leverage afforded by derivatives as a means of increasing their investment returns. When used properly, this goal is met. However, when leverage becomes too large, or when the underlying securities decline substantially in value, the loss to the derivative holder is amplified. The term "derivatives time bomb" relates to the speculation that the large number of derivatives positions and increasing leverage taken on by hedge funds and investment banks could lead to an industry-wide meltdown.

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  1. What is the difference between hedging and speculation?

    Hedging involves taking an offsetting position in a derivative in order to balance any gains and losses to the underlying ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Who do hedge funds lend money to?

    Many traditional lenders and banks are failing to provide loans. In their absence, hedge funds have begun to fill the gap. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What licenses does a hedge fund manager need to have?

    A hedge fund manager does not necessarily need any specific license to operate a fund, but depending on the type of investments ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What do hedge fund analysts do?

    A hedge fund analyst primarily provides support to a portfolio manager on how to best structure the hedge fund's investment ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Can mutual funds invest in hedge funds?

    Mutual funds are legally allowed to invest in hedge funds. However, hedge funds and mutual funds have striking differences ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. 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 >>

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