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Investors Guide to Derivatives

A futures or options contract which is based on a set of underlying securities is called a Stock Index Futures or Options Contract. When trading takes place in stock index futures, it means that market participants are taking a view on the way the index will move. By trading in Index-based Futures and Options you buy or sell the entire stock market as a single entity.

S&P CNX NIFTY

S&P CNX NIFTY is a scientifically developed index. Top 50 blue chip companies have been selected to form part of the index. The index covers more than 25 industry sectors and is professionally managed by India Index & Services Ltd (IISL). IISL has a licensing and co-branding arrangement with Standard & Poor's (S&P), the World's leading provider of investable equity indices, for co-branding IISL's equity indices. Daily derivatives trading based on S&P 500 index is over US $ 50 billion.

Uses of S&P CNX NIFTY

S&P CNX NIFTY can be used for the purpose of speculation, hedging as well as an arbitrage tool.

Think market will go up?

Do you sometimes think that the market index is going to rise? That you could make a profit by adopting a position on the index? After a good budget, or good corporate results, or the onset of a stable government, many people feel that the index would go up. How does one implement a trading strategy to benefit from an upward movement in the index? Today, you have two choices:

Buy selected liquid securities, which move with the index, and sell them at a later date,

Or

Buy the entire index portfolio and them sell it at a later date.

The first alternative is widely used a lot of the trading volume on stocks like HINDLEVER is based on using HINDLEVER as an index proxy. However, these positions run the risk of making losses owing to HINDLEVER-specific news; they are not purely focussed upon the index.

The second alternative is hard to implement. An investor needs to buy all the stocks in S&P CNX Nifty in their correct proportions. Most retail investors do not have such large portfolios. This strategy is also cumbersome and expensive in terms of transactions costs.

Taking a position on the index is effortless using the index futures market. Using index futures, an investor can "buy" or "sell" the entire index by trading on one single security. Once a person buys S&P CNX NIFTY using the futures market, he gains if the index rises and loses if the index falls.

Example

  • 5/1/2000 - You feel the market will rise
  • Buy 100 S&P CNX NIFTY January futures contract at 1450 costing Rs.145000 (100*1450)
  • expiration date - 28/1/2000
  • 14/1/2000 Nifty January futures have risen to 1470
  • You sell off your position at 1470
  • Make a profit of Rs. 2000 (100* 20)
  • Think the market will go down?

Do you sometimes think that the market index is going to fall? That you could make a profit by adopting a position on the index? After a bad budget, or bad corporate results, or the onset of a coalition government, many people feel that the index would go down. How does one implement a trading strategy to benefit from a downward movement in the index? Today, you have two choices:

Sell selected liquid securities which move with the index, and buy them at a later date,

Or

Sell the entire index portfolio and then buy it at a later date.

The first alternative is widely used a lot of the trading volume on stocks like ITC is based on using ITC as an index proxy (ITC has the highest correlation with S&P CNX Nifty amongst all the stocks in India). However, these position run the risk of making losses owing to ITC-specific news; they are not purely focussed upon the index.

The second alternative is hard to implement. This strategy is also cumbersome and expensive in terms of transaction costs.

Taking a position on the index is effortless using the index futures market. Using index futures, an investor can "buy" or "sell" the entire index by trading on one single security. Once a person sells S&P CNX NIFTY using the futures market, he gains if the index falls and loses if the index rises.

Example

  • 8/2/2000 - You feel the market will fall
  • Sell 100 S&P CNX NIFTY February expiry contract
  • Expiration date 25/2/2000
  • Nifty February contract is trading at 1560
  • Your position is worth Rs. 156000
  • 15/1/2000 - Nifty February futures have fallen to 1520
  • You squares off your position at 1520
  • Make a profit of Rs.4000 (100*40)
  • Have you bought a share hoping it will go up?

Have you ever felt that a stock was intrinsically undervalued?

That the profits and the quality of the company made it worth a lot more as compared with what the market thinks? Have you ever been a "stockpicker" and carefully purchased a stock based on a sense that it was worth more than the market price?

When doing this, you face two kinds of risks:

Your understanding can be wrong, and the company is really not worth more than the market price,

Or

The entire market moves against you and generates losses even though the underlying idea was correct.

The second outcome happens all the time. A person may buy Infosys thinking that Infosys will announce good results and the stock price would rise. A few days later, S&P CNX Nifty drops, so he makes losses, even if his intrinsic understanding of Infosys was correct. There is a peculiar problem here. Every buy position on a stock is simultaneously a buy position on S&P CNX Nifty. This is because a buy Infosys position generally gains if S&P CNX Nifty rises and generally loses if S&P CNX Nifty drops. It is useful to ask: does the person feel bullish about Infosys or about the Index?

  • Those who are bullish about the index should just buy S&P CNX Nifty futures; they need not trade individual stocks
  • Those who are bullish about the Infosys do wrong by carrying along a long position on S&P CNX Nifty as well.

There is a simple way out. Every time you adopt a long position on a stock, you should sell some amount of S&P CNX Nifty futures. When this is done, the stockpicker has "hedged away" his index exposure. How do you do this?

  • We need to know the "beta" of the stock, i.e. the average impact of a 1% move in S&P CNX Nifty, upon the stock. If betas are not known, it is generally safe to assume the beta is 1. Suppose we take LUPINLAB, where the beta is 1.2, and suppose we have a LONG LUPINLAB position of Rs. 200,000.
  • The size of the position that we need on the index futures market, to completely remove the hidden S&P CNX Nifty exposure, is 1.2 * 200,000, i.e. Rs. 240,000.
  • Suppose S&P CNX Nifty is at 1200, and the market lot on the futures market is 100. Hence each market lot of S&P CNX Nifty is Rs. 120.000. To sell Rs.240,000 of S&P CNX Nifty we need to sell two market lots.
  • We sell two market lots of S&P CNX Nifty (200 Nifties) to get the position:
  • Long LUPINLAB Rs. 200,000
  • Short S&P CNX NIFTY Rs. 240,000

Example

  • 01/10/1999 - You buy INFOSYS of Rs. 10 lakhs
  • The expiry date of Nifty June futures is 29/10/1999
  • Nifty spot is at 1403.20 and Nifty futures is at 1420
  • The beta of INFOSYS is 1.2
  • You need to sell 1.2*10 lakhs = 12 lakhs on the index futures i.e., 12 market lots
  • 29/10/1999 - Nifty fell 5.5%
  • 29/10/1999 Nifty spot at 1325.45 and settlement price of Nifty October futures is also 1325.45
  • You close both positions earning Rs. 9640. i.e., your position on INFOSYS drops by Rs. 66,000 and your short position on Nifty gains Rs. 75,640

Have you sold a share hoping it will go down?

Have you ever felt that a stock was intrinsically overvalued? That the profits and the quality of the company made it worth a lot less as compared with what the market thinks? Have you ever been a "stockpicker" and carefully sold a stock based on a sense that it was worthy less than the market price?

  • His understanding can be wrong, and the company is really worth more than the market price,

    Or

  • The entire market moves against him and generates losses even though the underlying idea was correct.

The second outcome happens all the time. A person may sell Reliance, expecting that Reliance would announce poor results and the stock price would fall. A few days later, S&P CNX Nifty rises, so you make losses, even if your intrinsic understanding of Reliance was correct.

There is a peculiar problem here. Every sell position on a stock is simultaneously a sell position on S&P CNX Nifty. This is because a SHORT RELIANCE position generally gains if S&P CNX Nifty falls and generally loses if S&P CNX Nifty rises. It is useful to ask: does the person fell bearish about Infosys or about the index?

  • Those who are bearish about the index should just sell S&P CNX Nifty futures; they need not trade individual stocks.

  • Those who are bearish about Reliance do wrong by carrying along a sell position on S&P CNX Nifty as well.

There is a simple way out. Every time you adopt a short position on a stock, you should buy some amount of S&P CNX Nifty futures. When this is done, the stockpicker has "hedged away" his index exposure. The basic point of this hedging strategy is that the stockpicker proceeds with his core skill, i.e. picking stocks, at the cost of lower risk

How do you do this?

  • We need to know the "beta" of the stock, i.e. the average impact of a 1% move in S&P CNX Nifty upon the stock. If betas are not known, it is generally safe to assume the beta is 1. Suppose we take LUPINLAB, where the beta is 1.2, and suppose we have a SHORT LUPINLAB position of Rs. 200,000.
  • The size of the position that we need on the index futures market, to completely remove the hidden S&P CNX Nifty exposure, is 1.2* 200,000, i.e. Rs. 240,000.
  • Suppose S&P CNX Nifty is at 1200, and the market lot on the futures market is 100. Hence each market lot of S&P CNX Nifty is Rs. 120,000. To long Rs. 240,000 of S&P CNX Nifty we need to buy two market lots.
  • We buy two market lots of S&P CNX Nifty (200 Nifties) to get the position:
  • SHORT LUPINLAB Rs. 200,000
  • LONG S&P CNX NIFTY Rs. 240,000
  • This position will be essentially immune to fluctuations of S&P CNX Nifty. The profits/losses position will fully reflect price changes intrinsic to LUPINLAB, hence only successful forecasts about LUPINLAB will benefit from this position. Returns on the position will be roughly neutral to movements of S&P CNX Nifty.

Example

  • 01/07/1999 - You sell Infosys of Rs. 10 lakhs
  • The expiry date of Nifty July futures is 30/07/1999
  • Nifty spot is at 1183.20 and Nifty futures are trading at 1200
  • The beta of Infosys is 1.2
  • Hence you need a long position of 1.2*10 lakhs = 12 lakhs on the index futures i.e., 12 market lots
  • 30/07/1999 - Nifty rose by 10.7% due to stable political outlook
  • On 30/07/1999 Nifty spot / Nifty June futures closed at 1310.15
  • You unwound both positions losing Rs 18,250. That is, your position on Infosys loses Rs.
  • 1,28,400 and your buy position on Nifty gains Rs. 1,10,150.

How to protect your portfolio from nuclear bomb?

Have you ever experienced the feeling of owning an equity portfolio, and then, one-day, becoming uncomfortable about the overall stock market? Sometimes, you may have a view that stock prices will fall in the near future. At other times, you may see that the market is in for a few days or weeks of massive volatility, and you do not have any appetite for this kind of volatility. The Union budget is a common and reliable source of such volatility: market volatility is always enhanced for one week before and two weeks after a budget. Many investors simply do not want the fluctuations of these three weeks.

This is particularly a problem if you expect to sell shares in the near future for example, in order to finance a purchase of a house. This planning can go wrong if by the time you do sell shares, S&P CNX Nifty has dropped sharply. When you have such anxieties, there are two alternatives that have always been available:

Sell shares immediately. This sentiment generates "panic selling" which is rarely optimal for the investor.
Do nothing, i.e. suffer the pain of the volatility. This leads to political pressures for government to "do something" when stock prices fall.
In addition, with the index futures market, a third and remarkable alternative becomes available:

Remove your exposure to index fluctuations temporarily using index futures. This allows rapid response to market conditions, without "panic selling" of shares. It allows an investor to be in control of his risk, instead of doing nothing and suffering the risk.
The idea here is quite simple. Every portfolio contains a hidden index exposure. This statement is true for all portfolios, whether a portfolio is composed of index stocks or not. In the case of portfolios, most of the portfolio risk is accounted for by index fluctuations (unlike individual stocks, where only 30-60% of the stock risk is accounted for by index fluctuations).

How do we actually do this?

We need to know the "beta" of the portfolio, i.e. the average impact of a 1% move in S&P CNX Nifty upon the portfolio. It is easy to calculate the portfolio beta: it is the weighted average of stock betas. Suppose we have a portfolio composed of Rs.1 million of Reliance, which has a beta of 1.4 and Rs.2 million of Hindustan Lever, which has beta of 0.8, then the portfolio beta is (1x1.4+2x0.8)/3 or 1. If the beta of any stock is not known, it is safe to assume that it is 1.
The complete hedge is obtained by adopting a position on the index futures market, which completely removes the hidden S&P CNX Nifty exposure equals portfolio value x portfolio beta. In the above case, the portfolio is Rs.3 million with a beta of 1, hence we would need a position of Rs. 3 million on the S&P CNX Nifty futures.
Suppose S&P CNX Nifty is at 1200, and the market lot on the futures market is 100. Each market lot of S&P CNX Nifty costs Rs.1, 20,000. Hence we need to sell 25 market lots, i.e.2500 Nifties to get the position:

Example

  • 25/5/1998 - You have a portfolio of 5 securities of Rs. 1,87,085
  • The expiry date of Nifty June futures is 26/6/1998 Nifty spot is at 1122.95 and Nifty futures are
    trading at 1141
  • The beta of the portfolio is 0.95
  • Hence he needs to sell 0.95*187085 =Rs. 177731 on the index futures i.e., 2 market lots [187085/(1141*100)]
  • 10/6/1998 Nifty crashed to 962.90 & Nifty June futures at 970.63
    portfolio value reduced to 154095
  • You unwound both positions making a profit of Rs.1096. i.e., portfolio dropped by Rs.32990 and your sell position on Nifty gained by Rs.34086

Expecting money to invest?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had funds, which needed to get invested in equity? Or of expecting to obtain funds in the future which will get invested in equity. Some common occurrences of this include:

  • Suppose a person plans to sell land and buy shares. The land deal is slow and takes weeks to complete. It takes several weeks from the date that it becomes sure that the funds will come to the date that the funds actually are in hand.
    A closed-end fund, which just finished its initial public offering, has cash, which is not yet invested.
  • An open-ended fund has just sold fresh units and has received funds.

Getting invested in equity ought to be easy but there are three problems:

  • A person may need time to research stocks, and carefully pick stocks that are expected to do well. This process takes time. For that time, the investor has partly invested in cash and partly invested in stocks. During this time, he is exposed to the risk of missing out if the overall market index goes up.
  • A person may have made up his mind on what portfolio he seeks to buy, but going to the market and placing market orders would generate large "impact costs". The execution would be improved substantially if he could instead place limit orders and gradually accumulated the portfolio at favorable prices. This takes time, and during this time, he is exposed to the risk of missing out if the S&P CNX Nifty goes up.
  • In some cases, such as the land sales above, the person may simply not have cash to immediately buy shares; hence he is forced to wait even if he feels that S&P CNX Nifty is unusually cheap. He is exposed to the risk of missing out if S&P CNX Nifty rises.

So far, in India, we have had exactly two alternative strategies, which an investor can adopt: to buy liquid stocks (like HINDLEVER and RELIANCE) in a hurry, or to suffer the risk of staying in cash. With S&P CNX Nifty futures, a third alternative becomes available:

  • The investor would obtain the desired equity exposure by buying index futures, immediately. A person who expects to obtain Rs. 50 lakhs by selling land would immediately buy S&P CNX NIFTY worth Rs.50 lakhs.
  • Later, the investor can gradually acquire stocks (either based on detailed research and / or based on aggressive limit orders). As and when shares are obtained, he would sell his S&P CNX NIFTY position correspondingly.

Examples

  • Iqbal obtained Rs. 5 million on 17 Feb 1998. He made a list of 14 stocks to buy, at 17 Feb prices, totaling approximately Rs. 5 million.
  • At that time S&P CNX Nifty was at 991.70. He entered into a LONG S&P CNX NIFTY MARCH FUTURES position for 5000 nifties, i.e. his long position was worth 5,053,600.
  • From 18 Feb 1998 to 09 Mar 1998 he gradually acquired the stocks (see Table 2). On each day, he purchased one stock and sold off a corresponding amount of futures.
  • On each day, the stocks purchased were at a changed price (as compared with the price prevalent on 17 Feb). On each day, he obtained or paid the mark-to-market margin on his outstanding futures position, thus capturing the gains on the index.
  • By 09 Mar 1998 he had fully invested in all the shares that he wanted (as of 17 Feb) and had no futures position left.
  • The same sequencing of purchases, without the umbrella of protection of the LONG S&P CNX NIFTY MARCH FUTURES position, would have cost Rs. 249,724 more.

Warning: Hedging does not always make money. The best that can be achieved using hedging is the removal of unwanted risk. The hedged position will make less profits than the unhedged position, half the time. One should not enter into a hedging strategy hoping to make excess profits for sure; all that can come out of hedging is reduced risk.

Want to lend money at a better rate?

Would you like to lend funds into the stock market, without suffering the slightest risk?

Traditional methods of loaning money into the stock market suffer from (a) price risk of shares and (b) credit risk, of default of the counterparty. What is new about the index futures market is that supplies a technology to lend money into the market without suffering any exposure to S&P CNX Nifty and without bearing any credit risk.

The basic idea is simple. The lender buys all 50 stocks of S&P CNX Nifty on the cash market, and simultaneously sells them at a future date on the futures market. It is like a repo. There is no price risk since the position is perfectly hedged. There is no credit risk since the counter party on both legs is the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC) which supplies clearing services on NSE. It is an ideal lending vehicle for entities, which are shy of price risk and credit risk, such as traditional banks and the most conservative corporate treasuries.

How do we actually do this?

To buy all 50 stocks in S&P CNX Nifty on the cash market requires a significant amount of money because of the minimum market lot

  • Calculate a portfolio, which buys all the 50 stocks in S&P CNX Nifty in correct proportion, i.e., where the money invested in each stock is proportional to its market capitalisation.
  • Round off the number of shares in each stock to the nearest market lot.
  • Rapid succession into the NSE trading system. This gives you the buy position.
  • A moment later, sell S&P CNX Nifty futures of equal value. Now you are completely hedged, so fluctuations in S&P CNX Nifty do not affect you.
  • A few days later, you will have to take delivery of the 50 stocks and pay for them. This is the point at which you are "loaning money to the market".
  • Some days later (anything you want), you will unwind the entire transaction.
  • A moment later, reverse the future position. Now your position is down to 0.
  • A few days later, you will have to make delivery of the 50 stocks and receive money for them. This is the point at which "your money is repaid to you".

Example

On 1 August, S&P CNX Nifty is at 1200. A futures contract is trading with 27 August expiration for 1230. You want to earn this return (30/1200 for 27 days).

  • You buy Rs. 3 million of S&P CNX Nifty on the spot market. In doing this, you place 50 market orders and end up paying slightly more. Your average cost of purchase is 0.3% higher, i.e. you have obtained the S&P CNX Nifty spot for 1204.
  • You sell Rs. 3 million of the futures at 1230. The futures market is extremely liquid so the market order for Rs. 3million goes through at near-zero impact cost.
  • You take delivery of the shares and wait.
  • While waiting; a few dividends come into your hands. The dividends work out to Rs. 7,000.
  • On 27 August, at 3:15, you put in market orders to sell off your S&P CNX Nifty portfolio, putting 50 market orders to sell off all the shares. S&P CNX Nifty happens to have closed at 1210 and your sell orders (which suffer impact cost) goes through at 1207.
  • The futures position spontaneously expires on 27 August at 1210 (the value of the futures on the last day is always equal to the S&P CNX Nifty spot).
  • You have gained Rs. 3 (0.255) on the spot S&P CNX Nifty and Rs. 20 (1.63%) on the futures for a return of near 1.88%. In addition, he has gained Rs. 7,000 or 0.23% owing to the dividends for a total return of 2.11% for 27 days, risk free.

Make your idle shares work for you!

Do you have a portfolio of shares which is earning you nothing? Would you like to juice up your returns by earning revenues from stock lending? Most owners of shares answer in the affirmative to these questions. The index futures market offers a risk less mechanism for (effectively) loaning out certificates and earning a positive return for them. There is no price risk (since you are perfectly hedged) and there is no credit risk (since your counter party on both legs of the transaction is the National Securities Clearing Corporation).

The basic idea is quite simple. You would sell all 50 stocks in S&P CNX Nifty and buy them back at a future date using the index futures. You would soon receive money for the shares you have sold. You can deploy this money as you like until futures expiration. On this date, you would buy back your shares, and pay for them.

How do we actually do this?

Suppose you have Rs. 50 lakhs of the S&P CNX Nifty portfolio (in their correct proportion, with each share being present in the portfolio with a weight that is proportional to its market capitalisation).

  • Sell off all 50 shares on the stock market.
  • Buy index futures of an equal value.
  • A few days later, you will receive money and have to make delivery of the 50 shares.
  • Invest this money at the risk less interest rate.
  • On the date that the futures expire, put in order to buy the entire S&P CNX Nifty portfolio.
  • A few days later, you will need to pay in the money and get back your shares.

Example

  • You put in sell orders for Rs. 4 million of S&P CNX Nifty using the feature in NEAT to rapidly place 50 market orders, in quick succession. The seller always suffers impact cost; suppose he contains an actual execution at 1098.
  • A moment later, you put in a market order to buy Rs. 4 million of the S&P CNX Nifty futures. The order executes at 1110. At this point, you are completely hedged.
  • A few days later, you make delivery of shares and receive Rs. 3.99 million (assuming an impact cost of 2/1100)
  • Suppose you lend this out at 1% per month for two months.
  • At the end of two months, the money comes back to you as Rs. 4,072,981. Translated in terms of S&P CNX Nifty, this is1098 * 1.012 or 1120.
  • On the expiration date of the futures, you put in market orders to buy back your S&P CNX Nifty portfolio. Suppose S&P CNX Nifty has moved up to 1150 by this time. This makes shares costlier in buying back, but the difference is exactly offset by profits on the futures contract.
  • When the market order is placed, suppose you end up paying 1153 and not 1150, owing to impact cost. You have funds in hand of 1120 and the futures contract pays 40 (1150-1110) so you end up with a clean profit, on the entire transaction, of 1120+40-1153 = 7. On a base of Rs. 4 million, this is Rs. 25,400
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