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The derivatives market involves more than just put and call options. There are also contracts involving swapping fixed interest rate payment streams for adjustable or floating interest rate payment streams. A company may have borrowed money under an adjustable interest rate security such as a mortgage and is now fearful that the interest rate is going to rise. It wants to protect itself against rises in the interest rates without going through the refinancing of the mortagage. The company or individual liable for an adjustable rate looks for someone who will pay the adjustable interest payments in return for receipt of fixed rate payments. This is called a swap. A swap agreement created through the synthesis of two swaps differing in duration for the purpose of fulfilling the specific time-frame needs of an investor. Also referred to as a "forward start swap," "delayed start swap," and a "deferred start swap.For example, if an investor wants to hedge for a five-year duration beginning one year from today, this investor can enter into both a one-year and six-year swap, creating the forward swap that meets the needs of his or her portfolio. Swaps, caps, and floors are recent innovations in the derivatives markets. The derivatives market traditionally included forward contracts in addition to options (puts, calls, warrants). A forward contract involved a commitment to trade a specified item at a specified price at a future date. The forward contract takes whatever form the two parties agree to. There is also a market for standardized forward contracts, which is called the futures market. The standardization makes possible a wider market with greater liquidity and efficiency. Often the futures markets eliminate the ties between specific parties, the party and the counter-party, and the risk that the other might not fulfill the contract. In the futures market everyone deals with the clearinghouse who guarantees fulfillment.
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