Mechanics of futures markets
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Mechanics of Futures Markets. Chapter 2. Futures Contracts. Available on a wide range of underlyings Exchange traded Specifications need to be defined: What can be delivered, Where it can be delivered, & When it can be delivered Settled daily. Futures.

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Mechanics of futures markets

Mechanics of Futures Markets

Chapter 2


Futures contracts

Futures Contracts

  • Available on a wide range of underlyings

  • Exchange traded

  • Specifications need to be defined:

    • What can be delivered,

    • Where it can be delivered, &

    • When it can be delivered

  • Settled daily


Futures

Futures

  • Futures contracts are the exchange-traded counterparts of forward contracts.

  • Key features :

    • The standardization of futures contracts.

    • The ability to unilaterally reverse positions.

    • The use of margin accounts or \performance bonds" to control default by investors in the market.

    • Unlike forward contracts, holders of futures contracts can unilaterally reverse (or "close out") their positions.

  • We examine two case studies:

    • The GNMA Futures Contract.

    • Metallgesellschaft.


  • Standardized contract

    Standardized Contract

    • Contract terms must be standardized, since buyer and seller do not interact directly.

    • Essential in promoting liquidity and improving quality of hedge.

    • Apart from contract maturity dates, standardization involves three components:

      • Quantity (size of contract).

      • Quality (standard deliverable grade).

      • Delivery options (other deliverable grades + price adjustment mechanism).


    Delivery

    Delivery

    • If a futures contract is not closed out before maturity, it is usually settled by delivering the assets underlying the contract. When there are alternatives about what is delivered, where it is delivered, and when it is delivered, the party with the short position chooses.

    • A few contracts (for example, those on stock indices and Eurodollars) are settled in cash


    Delivery consequences

    Delivery Consequences

    • Why provide delivery options in futures contracts?

      • It makes corners and squeezes more difficult.

      • Enhance market liquidity.

    • However, there is an important cost: the quality of the hedge is degraded. The delivered grade is not the standard grade, but the cheapest-to-deliver grade.

      • Case study: The GNMA futures contract.


    Margins

    Margins

    • A margin is cash or marketable securities deposited by an investor with his or her broker

    • The balance in the margin account is adjusted to reflect daily settlement

    • Margins minimize the possibility of a loss through a default on a contract


    Example of a futures trade

    Example of a Futures Trade

    • An investor takes a long position in 2 December gold futures contracts on June 5:

      • contract size is 100 oz.

      • futures price is US$400

      • margin requirement is US$2,000/contract (US$4,000 in total)

      • maintenance margin is US$1,500/contract (US$3,000 in total)


    A possible outcome

    A Possible Outcome

    Daily

    Cumulative

    Margin

    Futures

    Gain

    Gain

    Account

    Margin

    Price

    (Loss)

    (Loss)

    Balance

    Call

    Day

    (US$)

    (US$)

    (US$)

    (US$)

    (US$)

    400.00

    4,000

    5-Jun

    397.00

    (600)

    (600)

    3,400

    0

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    13-Jun

    393.30

    (420)

    (1,340)

    2,660

    1,340

    4,000

    +

    =

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    3,000

    <

    19-Jun

    387.00

    (1,140)

    (2,600)

    2,740

    1,260

    4,000

    +

    =

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    26-Jun

    392.30

    260

    (1,540)

    5,060

    0


    Other key points about futures

    Other Key Points About Futures

    • They are settled daily (all margin accts are),

    • Closing out a futures position involves entering into an offsetting trade,

    • Most contracts are closed out before maturity


    Types of futures contracts

    Types of Futures Contracts

    • Agricultural Commodities

    • Natural Resources

    • Miscellaneous Commodities

    • Foreign Currencies

    • Treasury Bills and Eurodollars

    • Treasury Notes and Bonds

    • Equities

    • Managed Funds

    • Hedge Funds

    • Options on Futures


    Some terminology

    Some Terminology

    • Open interest: the total number of contracts outstanding

      • equal to number of long positions or number of short positions

    • Settlement price: the price just before the final bell each day

      • used for the daily settlement process

    • Volume of trading: the number of trades in 1 day


    Convergence of futures to expected future spot price

    Convergence of Futures to Expected Future Spot Price

    ContangoBackwardation

    Exp Spot Price

    Futures

    Price

    Futures

    Price

    Basis

    Exp Spot Price

    Time

    Time

    (a)

    (b)


    Other costs in forward and futures trading

    Other Costs in Forward and Futures Trading

    • Commissions

    • Bid-Ask Spread

    • Delivery Costs

    • Carry Costs


    Forward contracts

    Forward Contracts

    • A forward contract is an OTC agreement to buy or sell an asset at a certain time in the future for a certain price

    • There is no daily settlement (unless a collateralization agreement requires it). At the end of the life of the contract one party buys the asset for the agreed price from the other party


    Profit from a long forward or futures position

    Profit

    Price of Underlying

    at Maturity

    Profit from a Long Forward or Futures Position


    Profit from a short forward or futures position

    Profit

    Price of Underlying

    at Maturity

    Profit from a Short Forward or Futures Position


    Forward contracts vs futures contracts

    Forward Contracts vsFutures Contracts


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Case Study: GNMA CDR Futures

    The contract was introduced in 1975 on the CBoT.

    First interest-rate futures contract traded on an exchange.

    Volumes

    Grew explosively over first five years,

    Declined slightly over 1980-82.

    Collapsed back to near-zero levels by 1985.

    The initial success and subsequent failure of the contract can be traced to the poor specification of delivery options.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    GNMA CDR Futures: Trading Volumes - Death of the future...


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Hedging Spot Risk: The Role of Correlation

    An obvious but important point:

    Hedging is an offsetting of risks.

    For a futures contract to provide a good hedge for a spot risk, futures price must bear close relationship to spot price of asset being hedged.

    That is, futures price changes and spot price changes must be highlycorrelated.

    In many cases, the underlying risk is well defined (oil, lumber, corn, exchange rates, etc.).

    For interest-rate securities, one must be careful in identifying which risk it is that investors are seeking to hedge.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Hedging Demand in Mortgages

    GNMA CDR futures contracts are futures on mortgage-backed securities.

    But which mortgage-backed securities are investors seeking to hedge?

    Hedging demand is concentrated in current-coupon mortgages.

    Primary source of hedging demand: mortgage bankers.

    Mortgage bankers are exposed to interest rate risk on mortgages written at current coupon rates, between the time the loans are made and the time they are sold on the secondary market.

    Conclusion:

    For the futures to be a successful hedge vehicle, futures price must bear a close relationship to current coupon mortgages.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Role of Delivery Options

    Futures contracts also have delivery options that provide for alternative deliverable grades and the price adjustments for each grade.

    The actual delivered grade will be not the standard grade, but the cheapest-to-deliver grade.

    This means the futures price will always bear a close relationship to the price of the cheapest-to-deliver grade.

    However, we want the futures price to be closely related to the price of current-coupon mortgages.

    Conclusion:

    The delivery options must be specified such that the current coupon mortgages are typically the cheapest-to-deliver.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The GNMA Contract Specification

    Did the GNMA CDR futures contract meet this criterion?

    Specification of the contract:

    Underlying asset: GNMA mortgage backed securities.

    Contract size: $100,000 in face value of mortgages.

    Standard grade:

    Coupon: 8%.

    Maturity: 29–30 years.

    Deliverable grades:

    Any coupon in place of the standard 8%.

    Price adjustment:

    Cash flows from delivered grade discounted at 8% for 12 years.

    Implicit assumption: all mortgages are prepaid in 12 years.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Problem

    High-coupon mortgages are more likely to be prepaid early than low-coupon mortgages.

    Holder of mortgage has an option to "call" (repay) the mortgage at any time.

    Right is more valuable to holder of high-coupon mortgage.

    The 12-years-for-all-mortgages assumption undervalues the call in high-coupon mortgages relative to low-coupon mortgages.

    Equivalently, it overstates the adjustment factor for high-coupon mortgages relative to that for low-coupon mortgages.

    Conclusion:

    In general, high-coupon mortgages will be the cheapest-to-deliver grade.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Consequence ...

    Thus, as long as high coupons are also current coupons (i.e., interest rates are constant or rising), the contract will be a good hedge.

    This was actually the case between 1975 and 1982.

    Coupon rates were around 8% in 1975, rose to 17% in late 1981, and remained at 16–17% until early 1982.

    As a consequence, trading in the contract grew rapidly.

    However, in late 1982, interest rates declined steeply.

    The contract was no longer a useful hedge vehicle.

    Trading in the contract dropped to near-zero levels by 1987.

    Interest in the contract never revived as Treasury futures and other contracts supplanted it as the hedge vehicles of choice.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Case Study: Metallgesellschaft AG


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Case Study: Metallgesellschaft

    Protagonist: Metallgesellschaft Refining & Marketing (MGRM), a subsidiary of Metallgesellschaft AG.

    Beginning in 1992, MGRM began selling 5–year and 10–year fixed-price oil supply contracts to a number of customers.

    The customers were also provided with an option that allowed them to void the contract (at a profit) if oil spot prices rose rapidly.

    The contracts were marketed aggressively and very successfully.

    By Nov '93, MGRM had build up long-term supply commitments of over 150 million barrels.

    This was 8 times the commitment of Oct '92, and more than twice the commitments of May '93.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Need to Hedge

    These contracts left MGRM exposed to increases in the price of oil.

    MGRM hedged its exposure using exchange-traded futures contracts via a "stack-and-roll" hedging strategy.

    Such a strategy involves the following steps:

    The firm takes long positions in futures contracts to cover its entire exposure.

    All positions are in the nearby futures contract, i.e., for delivery at the end of the current month. (This is the "stack" part.)

    At the end of each month, the company closes out its position, and opens new long positions to cover its remaining exposure. (This is the "roll" part.)


    Mechanics of futures markets

    In Principle ...

    Theoretically, a stack-and-roll strategy should provide a good hedge for an exposure like MGRM's.

    If oil prices rise, there would be a loss on the forward contracts, but a gain on the long futures positions.

    If oil prices fall, there would be losses on the long futures positions, but these would be offset by the increased economic value of the forward commitments.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Between Cup and Lip ...

    There were three specific risks that MGRM's strategy entailed:

    A steep fall in oil prices.

    A change in the oil market from backwardation to contango.

    Basis risk from the futures/forward mismatch.

    Position limits made it impossible to completely hedge MGRM's total commitments of 160 million barrels using only futures contracts.

    MGRM had long futures positions of 55 million barrels on NYMEX.

    It also entered into OTC swaps arrangements to hedge the remaining exposure.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    A Fall in Oil Prices

    Every $1 fall in oil prices would lead to a $55 million cash outflow on the futures margin accounts alone.

    A steep oil price fall would thus create an immediate and large cash requirement to meet margin calls.

    The corresponding gains on the short forward positions would not translate into cash inflows until some date in the future.

    Thus, although the economic value of the position is unaffected (it remains hedged), a severe short-term cash flow requirement is created.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Nightmare’s Happen...

    Unfortunately for MGRM, this scenario came true: oil prices plummeted in late 1993.

    This led to a cash requirement of around $900 million to meet margin calls (on the futures positions) and extra collateral (on the OTC positions).


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Backwardation to Contango

    A futures market is said to be in backwardation if futures prices are below spot (expected future spot price).

    It is said to be in contango if futures prices are above spot.

    In a typical commodity market with a positive cost-of-carry, the futures will be above spot, i.e., the market will be in contango.

    However, in some commodity markets (especially oil) futures prices have remained below spot for long periods of time.

    This phenomenon is commonly attributed to the presence of a large "convenience yield“ (the ability to profit from temporary shortages, and the ability to keep a production process running)from holding the spot commodity.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Problem with Contango

    Recall MGRM employed a stack-and-roll strategy.

    Rolling over futures positions at the end of each month involves

    Closing out the existing long futures position by taking a short futures position in the expiring contract.

    Taking a long futures position in the new nearby contract.

    This is effectively selling at the current spot price and buying at the current futures price.

    In backwardation, rollover creates cash inflows.

    However, in contango, rollover creates cash outflows.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Nightmare Scenario Continued...

    Through much of the mid and late 1980's, the oil futures market was in backwardation.

    If this situation had continued, MGRM could have expected to make large profits on rollover.

    Unfortunately for MGRM, in late 1993, the oil market went into contango.

    As a consequence, by end-1993, MGRM was incurring a cash outflow of up $30 million each month on rollover costs alone.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Problem of Basis Risk

    A final technical issue that may have hurt MGRM is basis risk.

    MGRM was hedging long-termforwards with short-term futures.

    Since these two prices may not move in lockstep, there is basis risk

    in hedging.

    In the presence of basis risk, a well-developed theory shows that it is not, in general, optimal to use a hedge ratio of unity (i.e., to hedge exposure one-for-one).

    However, MGRM does appear to have used a hedge ratio of unity which may have further degraded the quality of the hedge, adding to losses.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    The Denouement

    When MGRM's cash requirements became public, the problems compounded.

    NYMEX doubled margin requirements.

    Later, NYMEX also removed MGRM's hedger's exception, effectively halving their position limits.

    Counterparties on their OTC contracts also demanded increased collateral for rolling over contracts.

    In response, MG's senior management then decided to close out their positions and terminate the hedging strategy in place.

    Cash requirements had become excessive.

    Rollover costs were around $30 million a month.

    The long-term forward contracts were not "watertight," i.e., significant credit-risk existed.

    Basis risk also existed from mismatch in assets underlying forward and futures contracts.


    Mechanics of futures markets

    Timing is Everything

    Termination of hedge converted paper losses into real ones.

    If market went back into backwardation (which had been the market's normal" state for several years), rollover profits would arise.

    Removal of hedge left MGRM vulnerable to price increases.

    As it happens, MGRM's positions were unwound near the bottom of the market: oil prices rebounded during 1994.

    By waiting a few months to unwind, the company could have recouped a substantial portion of its losses.


    Homework

    Homework

    • Homework: 7, 11, 17, 21, 23, 34


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