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Should We Fear Derivatives?

  • René M. Stulz

This paper discusses the extent to which derivatives pose threats to firms and to the economy. After reviewing the derivatives markets and putting in perspective the various measures of the size of these markets, the paper shows who uses derivatives and why. The difficulties firms face in valuing derivatives portfolios are evaluated. Although academics pay much attention to no-arbitrage pricing results, the paper points out that there can be considerable subjectivity in the pricing of derivatives that do not have highly liquid markets. It is shown that the known risks of derivatives portfolios can generally be measured and managed well at the firm level. However, derivatives can create systemic risks when a market participant becomes excessively large relative to particular derivatives markets. Overall, the benefits of derivatives outweigh the potential threats.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/0895330042162359
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 18 (2004)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 173-192

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:18:y:2004:i:3:p:173-192
Note: DOI: 10.1257/0895330042162359
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  1. Bernardo, Antonio E & Cornell, Bradford, 1997. " The Valuation of Complex Derivatives by Major Investment Firms: Empirical Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 785-98, June.
  2. Richard K. Green & Michael LaCour-Little, 1998. "The Truth About Ostriches: Who Never Prepays their Mortgage and Why They Don’t," Wisconsin-Madison CULER working papers 98-01, University of Wisconsin Center for Urban Land Economic Research.
  3. Allen M. Poteshman & Vitaly Serbin, 2003. "Clearly Irrational Financial Market Behavior: Evidence from the Early Exercise of Exchange Traded Stock Options," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(1), pages 37-70, 02.
  4. Guay, Wayne R., 1999. "The impact of derivatives on firm risk: An empirical examination of new derivative users1," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1-3), pages 319-351, January.
  5. Rogers, Daniel A., 2002. "Does executive portfolio structure affect risk management? CEO risk-taking incentives and corporate derivatives usage," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(2-3), pages 271-295, March.
  6. Bollen, Nicolas P. B., 1998. "A note on the impact of options on stock return volatility1," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 1181-1191, September.
  7. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-54, May-June.
  8. Conrad, Jennifer, 1989. " The Price Effect of Option Introduction," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(2), pages 487-98, June.
  9. Nicolas P. B. Bollen & Robert E. Whaley, 2004. "Does Net Buying Pressure Affect the Shape of Implied Volatility Functions?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(2), pages 711-753, 04.
  10. Robert C. Merton, 1973. "Theory of Rational Option Pricing," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 4(1), pages 141-183, Spring.
  11. John R. Graham & Daniel A. Rogers, 2002. "Do Firms Hedge in Response to Tax Incentives?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(2), pages 815-839, 04.
  12. Tufano, Peter, 1996. " Who Manages Risk? An Empirical Examination of Risk Management Practices in the Gold Mining Industry," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(4), pages 1097-1137, September.
  13. Guay, Wayne & Kothari, S. P, 2003. "How much do firms hedge with derivatives?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 423-461, December.
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