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Margin requirements across equity-related instruments: how level is the playing field?

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  • Peter Fortune

Abstract

Investors can participate in the returns on the Standard and Poor's 500 composite index in a variety of ways, and these alternatives exist because they differ in important respects. This article assesses one dimension of these differences-margin requirements. ; Focusing on equity-related instruments, the author develops a model to simulate the values arising from several identical positions obtained by combinations of stocks and stock derivatives. The results are then used to assess the costs of margin requirements on alternative strategies. The primary conclusion is that the playing field is more level than a cursory focus on initial margin requirements might indicate. The costs associated with margin requirements on equities or stock indexes are essentially fixed costs. On the other hand, costs of margin requirements on derivatives, particularly on futures contracts, have a low fixed cost component but are more sensitive to the price of the underlying security. Investors may be choosing their strategies based on their tolerance for risk and may be sorting themselves into different markets, allowing all instruments to be financially viable.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Fortune, 2003. "Margin requirements across equity-related instruments: how level is the playing field?," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 31-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbne:y:2003:p:31-50
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephen Figlewski, 1984. "Margins and market integrity: Margin setting for stock index futures and options," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 4(3), pages 385-416, September.
    2. Paul H. Kupiec, 1994. "The performance of S&P 500 futures product margins under the SPAN margining system," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(7), pages 789-811, October.
    3. Cathy E. Minehan & Katerina Simons, 1995. "Managing risk in the 90's: what should you be asking about derivatives?," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Sep, pages 3-25.
    4. George Sofianos, 1988. "Margin requirements on equity instruments," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sum, pages 47-60.
    5. Arturo Estrella, 1988. "Consistent margin requirements: are they feasible?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sum, pages 61-79.
    6. Peter Fortune, 1999. "Are stock returns different over weekends? a jump diffusion analysis of the "weekend effect"," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Sep, pages 3-19.
    7. Paul H. Kupiec, 1993. "The performance of S&P500 futures product margins under the span margining system," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 93-27, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    8. Gerald D. Gay & William C. Hunter & Robert W. Kolb, 1986. "A comparative analysis of futures contract margins," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(2), pages 307-324, June.
    9. Franklin R. Edwards, 1983. "The clearing association in futures markets: Guarantor and regulator," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 3(4), pages 369-392, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Willen & Felix Kubler, 2006. "Collateralized Borrowing and Life-Cycle Portfolio Choice," NBER Working Papers 12309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    Keywords

    Margins (Security trading);

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