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Free Content Should We Fear Derivatives?

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Abstract:

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.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/0895330042162359

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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