Derivatives Time Bomb

AAA

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.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Derivative

    A security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from ...
  2. Leverage Ratio

    Any ratio used to calculate the financial leverage of a company ...
  3. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and ...

    A compendium of federal regulations, primarily affecting financial ...
  4. Financial Analysis

    The process of evaluating businesses, projects, budgets and other ...
  5. Risk Analysis

    The study of the underlying uncertainty of a given course of ...
  6. Leverage

    1. The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, ...
Related Articles
  1. Options & Futures

    Are Derivatives A Disaster Waiting To Happen?

    They've contributed to some major market scandals, but these instruments aren't all bad.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Taking A Look Behind Hedge Funds

    Hedge funds can draw returns well above the market average even in a weak economy. Learn about the risks.
  3. Options & Futures

    Massive Hedge Fund Failures

    Flying high one day but not the next - see the stories behind some spectacular meltdowns.
  4. Options & Futures

    These Financial Products Are Too Complex For The Average Joe

    Structured financial products are so elaborate that investors are unable to assess costs and risk.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X

    Obtain a thorough review and analysis of the Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X fund, a leveraged ETF that tracks the performance of the financial sector.
  6. Term

    What is a Prime Brokerage?

    A prime brokerage offers special services to certain clients.
  7. Options & Futures

    Use Options to Hedge Against Iron Ore Downslide

    Using iron ore options is a way to take advantage of a current downslide in iron ore prices, whether for producers or traders.
  8. Investing Basics

    The 3 Best Investments Bill Ackman Ever Made

    Learn about the three best investments Ackman ever made. Ackman has demonstrated a consistent track record of success in all types of market environments.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 5 Precious Metals Mutual Funds

    Obtain information and analysis of some of the top-rated and most popular mutual funds that offer investors exposure to the precious metals industry.
  10. Home & Auto

    Understanding Rent-to-Own Contracts

    They can work for you or against you. Here's how to negotiate a fair one.
RELATED FAQS
  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. Where do penny stocks trade?

    Generally, penny stocks are traded through the use of the Over the Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and through pink sheets. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Where can I buy penny stocks?

    Some penny stocks, those using the definition of trading for less than $5 per share, are traded on regular exchanges such ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How are American Depository Receipts (ADRs) priced?

    The price of an American depositary receipt (ADR) is determined by the bank or other financial institution that issues it. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does a forward contract differ from a call option?

    Forward contracts and call options are different financial instruments that allow two parties to purchase or sell assets ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. 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 >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Recession

    A significant decline in activity across the economy, lasting longer than a few months. It is visible in industrial production, ...
  2. Bubble Theory

    A school of thought that believes that the prices of assets can temporarily rise far above their true values and that these ...
  3. Stock Market Crash

    A rapid and often unanticipated drop in stock prices. A stock market crash can be the result of major catastrophic events, ...
  4. Financial Crisis

    A situation in which the value of financial institutions or assets drops rapidly. A financial crisis is often associated ...
  5. Election Period

    The period of time during which an investor who owns an extendable or retractable bond must indicate to the issuer whether ...
  6. Shanghai Stock Exchange

    The largest stock exchange in mainland China, the Shanghai Stock Exchange is a nonprofit organization run by the China Securities ...
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!