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Concepts and Characteristics Financial Forward Contracts

In forward contract, two parties (two companies, individual or government nodal agencies) agree to do a trade at some future date, at a stated price and quantity. No security deposit is required as no money changes hands when the deal is signed.

Forward contracting is very valuable in hedging and speculation. The classic scenario of hedging application through forward contract is that of a wheat farmer forward; selling his harvest at a known fixed price in order to eliminate price risk. Similarly, a bread factory want to buy bread forward in order to assist production planning without the risk of price fluctuations. There are speculators, who based on their knowledge or information forecast an increase in price. They then go long (buy) on the forward market instead of the cash market. Now this speculator would go long on the forward market, wait for the price to rise and then sell it at higher prices; thereby, making a profit.

Disadvantages of forward markets

The forward markets come with a few disadvantages. The disadvantages are described below in brief −

  • Lack of centralization of trading
  • Illiquid (because only two parties are involved)
  • Counterparty risk (risk of default is always there)

In the first two issues, the basic problem is that there is a lot of flexibility and generality. The forward market is like two persons dealing with a real estate contract (two parties involved – the buyer and the seller) against each other. Now the contract terms of the deal is as per the convenience of the two persons involved in the deal, but the contracts may be non-tradeable if more participants are involved. Counterparty risk is always involved in forward market; when one of the two parties of the transaction chooses to declare bankruptcy, the other suffers.

Another common problem in forward market is – the larger the time period over which the forward contract is open, the larger are the potential price movements, and hence the larger is the counter-party risk involved.

Even in case of trade in forward markets, trade have standardized contracts, and hence avoid the problem of illiquidity but the counterparty risk always remains.

In finance, a forward contract or simply a forward is a non-standardized contract between two parties to buy or to sell an asset at a specified future time at a price agreed upon today, making it a type of derivative instrument. The party agreeing to buy the underlying asset in the future assumes a long position, and the party agreeing to sell the asset in the future assumes a short position. The price agreed upon is called the delivery price, which is equal to the forward price at the time the contract is entered into.

The price of the underlying instrument, in whatever form, is paid before control of the instrument changes. This is one of the many forms of buy/sell orders where the time and date of trade is not the same as the value date where the securities themselves are exchanged. Forwards, like other derivative securities, can be used to hedge risk (typically currency or exchange rate risk), as a means of speculation, or to allow a party to take advantage of a quality of the underlying instrument which is time-sensitive.

A closely related contract is a futures contract; they differ in certain respects. Forward contracts are very similar to futures contracts, except they are not exchange-traded, or defined on standardized assets. Forwards also typically have no interim partial settlements or “true-ups” in margin requirements like futures – such that the parties do not exchange additional property securing the party at gain and the entire unrealized gain or loss builds up while the contract is open.

However, being traded over the counter (OTC), forward contracts specification can be customized and may include mark-to-market and daily margin calls. Hence, a forward contract arrangement might call for the loss party to pledge collateral or additional collateral to better secure the party at gain.clarification needed] In other words, the terms of the forward contract will determine the collateral calls based upon certain “trigger” events relevant to a particular counterparty such as among other things, credit ratings, value of assets under management or redemptions over a specific time frame, e.g., quarterly, annually, etc.


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