The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Over-the-counter (OTC) or off-exchange trading is done directly between two parties, without the supervision of an exchange. It is contrasted with exchange trading, which occurs via exchanges. A stock exchange has the benefit of facilitating liquidity, providing transparency, and maintaining the current market price. In an OTC trade, the price is not necessarily publicly disclosed.
OTC trading, as well as exchange trading, occurs with commodities, financial instruments (including stocks), and derivatives of such products. Products traded on the exchange must be well standardized. This means that exchanged deliverables match a narrow range of quantity, quality, and identity which is defined by the exchange and identical to all transactions of that product. This is necessary for there to be transparency in trading. The OTC market does not have this limitation. They may agree on an unusual quantity, for example.In OTC, market contracts are bilateral (i.e. the contract is only between two parties), and each party could have credit risk concerns with respect to the other party. The OTC derivative market is significant in some asset classes: interest rate, foreign exchange, stocks, and commodities.
In 2008 approximately 16 percent of all U.S. stock trades were "off-exchange trading"; by April 2014 that number increased to about 40 percent.Although the notional amount outstanding of OTC derivatives in late 2012 had declined 3.3% over the previous year, the volume of cleared transactions at the end of 2012 totalled US$346.4 trillion. "The Bank for International Settlements statistics on OTC derivatives markets showed that notional amounts outstanding totalled $693 trillion at the end of June 2013... The gross market value of OTC derivatives – that is, the cost of replacing all outstanding contracts at current market prices – declined between end-2012 and end-June 2013, from $25 trillion to $20 trillion."
In the United States, over-the-counter trading in stock is carried out by market makers using inter-dealer quotation services such as OTC Link (a service offered by OTC Markets Group) and the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB, operated by FINRA). The OTCBB licenses the services of OTC Link for their OTCBB securities. Although exchange-listed stocks can be traded OTC on the third market, it is rarely the case. Usually OTC stocks are not listed nor traded on exchanges, and vice versa. Stocks quoted on the OTCBB must comply with certain limited U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reporting requirements. The SEC imposes more stringent financial and reporting requirements on other OTC stocks, specifically the OTCQX stocks (traded through the OTC Market Group Inc). Other OTC stocks have no reporting requirements, for example Pink Sheets securities and "gray market" stocks.
Some companies, with Wal-Mart as one of the largest,began trading as OTC stocks and eventually upgraded to a listing on fully regulated market. By 1969 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was incorporated. In 1972, with stores in five states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri, Wal-Mart began trading as over-the-counter (OTC) stocks. By 1972 Walmart had earned over US$1 billion in sales — the fastest company to ever accomplish this. In 1972 Wal-Mart was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol WMT.
An over-the-counter is a bilateral contract in which two parties (or their brokers or bankers as intermediaries) agree on how a particular trade or agreement is to be settled in the future. It is usually from an investment bank to its clients directly. Forwards and swaps are prime examples of such contracts. It is mostly done online or by telephone. For derivatives, these agreements are usually governed by an International Swaps and Derivatives Association agreement. This segment of the OTC market is occasionally referred to as the "Fourth Market." Critics have labelled the OTC market as the "dark market" because prices are often unpublished and unregulated.
Over-the-counter derivatives are especially important for hedging risk in that they can be used to create a "perfect hedge." With exchange traded contracts, standardization does not allow for as much flexibility to hedge risk because the contract is a one-size-fits-all instrument. With OTC derivatives, though, a firm can tailor the contract specifications to best suit its risk exposure.
OTC derivatives can lead to significant risks. Especially counterparty risk has gained particular emphasis due to the credit crisis in 2007. Counterparty risk is the risk that a counterparty in a derivatives transaction will default prior to expiration of the trade and will not make the current and future payments required by the contract.There are many ways to limit counterparty risk. One of them focuses on controlling credit exposure with diversification, netting, collateralisation and hedging. Central counterparty clearing of OTC trades has become more common in recent years, with regulators placing pressure on the OTC markets to clear and display trades openly.
In their market review published in 2010 the International Swaps and Derivatives Associationexamined OTC Derivative Bilateral Collateralization Practice as one way of mitigating risk.
OTC derivatives are significant part of the world of global finance. The OTC derivatives markets grew exponentially from 1980 through 2000. This expansion has been driven by interest rate products, foreign exchange instruments and credit default swaps. The notional outstanding of OTC derivatives markets rose throughout the period and totalled approximately US$601 trillion at December 31, 2010.
In their 2000 paper by Schinasi et al. published by the International Monetary Fund in 2001, the authors observed that the increase in OTC derivatives transactions would have been impossible "without the dramatic advances in information and computer technologies" that occurred from 1980 to 2000.During that time, major internationally active financial institutions significantly increased the share of their earnings from derivatives activities. These institutions manage portfolios of derivatives involving tens of thousands of positions and aggregate global turnover over $1 trillion. At that time prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the OTC market was an informal network of bilateral counterparty relationships and dynamic, time-varying credit exposures whose size and distribution tied to important asset markets. International financial institutions increasingly nurtured the ability to profit from OTC derivatives activities and financial markets participants benefitted from them. In 2000 the authors acknowledged that the growth in OTC transactions "in many ways made possible, the modernization of commercial and investment banking and the globalization of finance." However, in September, an IMF team led by Mathieson and Schinasi cautioned that "episodes of turbulence" in the late 1990s "revealed the risks posed to market stability originated in features of OTC derivatives instruments and markets.
The NYMEX has created a clearing mechanism for a slate of commonly traded OTC energy derivatives which allows counterparties of many bilateral OTC transactions to mutually agree to transfer the trade to ClearPort, the exchange's clearing house, thus eliminating credit and performance risk of the initial OTC transaction counterparts.
In finance, a derivative is a contract that derives its value from the performance of an underlying entity. This underlying entity can be an asset, index, or interest rate, and is often simply called the "underlying". Derivatives can be used for a number of purposes, including insuring against price movements (hedging), increasing exposure to price movements for speculation or getting access to otherwise hard-to-trade assets or markets. Some of the more common derivatives include forwards, futures, options, swaps, and variations of these such as synthetic collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. Most derivatives are traded over-the-counter (off-exchange) or on an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange, while most insurance contracts have developed into a separate industry. In the United States, after the financial crisis of 2007–2009, there has been increased pressure to move derivatives to trade on exchanges. Derivatives are one of the three main categories of financial instruments, the other two being stocks and debt. The oldest example of a derivative in history, attested to by Aristotle, is thought to be a contract transaction of olives, entered into by ancient Greek philosopher Thales, who made a profit in the exchange. Bucket shops, outlawed in 1936, are a more recent historical example.
The derivatives market is the financial market for derivatives, financial instruments like futures contracts or options, which are derived from other forms of assets.
A futures exchange or futures market is a central financial exchange where people can trade standardized futures contracts; that is, a contract to buy specific quantities of a commodity or financial instrument at a specified price with delivery set at a specified time in the future. These types of contracts fall into the category of derivatives. A counterpart to the futures market is the spot market, where trades occur immediately after a transaction agreement has been made, rather than at a predetermined time in the future. Futures instruments are priced according to the movement of the underlying asset. The aforementioned category is named "derivatives" because the value of these instruments are derived from another asset class.
In finance, a credit derivative refers to any one of "various instruments and techniques designed to separate and then transfer the credit risk" or the risk of an event of default of a corporate or sovereign borrower, transferring it to an entity other than the lender or debtholder.
A credit default swap (CDS) is a financial swap agreement that the seller of the CDS will compensate the buyer in the event of a debt default or other credit event. That is, the seller of the CDS insures the buyer against some reference asset defaulting. The buyer of the CDS makes a series of payments to the seller and, in exchange, may expect to receive a payoff if the asset defaults.
The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) is United States federal legislation that officially ensured modernized regulation of financial products known as over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives. It was signed into law on December 21, 2000 by President Bill Clinton. It clarified the law so most OTC derivative transactions between "sophisticated parties" would not be regulated as "futures" under the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936 (CEA) or as "securities" under the federal securities laws. Instead, the major dealers of those products would continue to have their dealings in OTC derivatives supervised by their federal regulators under general "safety and soundness" standards. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission's (CFTC) desire to have "functional regulation" of the market was also rejected. Instead, the CFTC would continue to do "entity-based supervision of OTC derivatives dealers." These derivatives, including the credit default swap, are a few of the many causes of the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent 2008–2012 global recession.
The International Swaps and Derivatives Association is a trade organization of participants in the market for over-the-counter derivatives. It is headquartered in New York City, and has created a standardized contract to enter into derivatives transactions. In addition to legal and policy activities, ISDA manages FpML, an XML message standard for the OTC Derivatives industry. ISDA has more than 820 members in 57 countries; its membership consists of derivatives dealers, service providers and end users.
In finance, a contract for difference (CFD) is a contract between two parties, typically described as "buyer" and "seller", stipulating that the buyer will pay to the seller the difference between the current value of an asset and its value at contract time.
In banking and finance, clearing denotes all activities from the time a commitment is made for a transaction until it is settled. This process turns the promise of payment into the actual movement of money from one account to another. Clearing houses were formed to facilitate such transactions among banks.
Securities market is a component of the wider financial market where securities can be bought and sold between subjects of the economy, on the basis of demand and supply. Securities markets encompasses stock markets, bond markets and derivatives markets where prices can be determined and participants both professional and non professionals can meet.
In finance, a currency swap is an interest rate derivative (IRD). In particular it is a linear IRD and one of the most liquid, benchmark products spanning multiple currencies simultaneously. It has pricing associations with interest rate swaps (IRSs), foreign exchange (FX) rates, and FX swaps (FXSs).
A credit default swap index is a credit derivative used to hedge credit risk or to take a position on a basket of credit entities. Unlike a credit default swap, which is an over the counter credit derivative, a credit default swap index is a completely standardized credit security and may therefore be more liquid and trade at a smaller bid-offer spread. This means that it can be cheaper to hedge a portfolio of credit default swaps or bonds with a CDS index than it would be to buy many single name CDS to achieve a similar effect. Credit-default swap indexes are benchmarks for protecting investors owning bonds against default, and traders use them to speculate on changes in credit quality.
Central counterparty clearing (CCP), also referred to as a central counterparty, is a financial institution that takes on counterparty credit risk between parties to a transaction and provides clearing and settlement services for trades in foreign exchange, securities, options, and derivative contracts. CCPs are highly regulated institutions that specialize in managing counterparty credit risk.
Collateral has been used for hundreds of years to provide security against the possibility of payment default by the opposing party in a trade. Collateral management began in the 1980s, with Bankers Trust and Salomon Brothers taking collateral against credit exposure. There were no legal standards, and most calculations were performed manually on spreadsheets. Collateralisation of derivatives exposures became widespread in the early 1990s. Standardisation began in 1994 via the first ISDA documentation.
LCH is a British clearing house that serves major international exchanges, as well as a range of OTC markets. Based on 2012 figures LCH cleared approximately 50% of the global interest rate swap market, and is the second largest clearer of bonds and repos in the world, providing services across 13 government debt markets. In addition, LCH clears a broad range of asset classes including: commodities, securities, exchange traded derivatives, credit default swaps, energy contracts, freight derivatives, interest rate swaps, foreign exchange and Euro and Sterling denominated bonds and repos.
The ISDA Master Agreement, published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, is the most commonly used master service agreement for OTC derivatives transactions internationally. It is part of a framework of documents, designed to enable OTC derivatives to be documented fully and flexibly. The framework consists of a master agreement, a schedule, confirmations, definition booklets, and credit support documentation.
The European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) is a body of European legislation for the regulation of over-the-counter derivatives. It was originally adopted by the EU legislature on July 4, 2012 and came into force on August 16, 2012. Its full technical standards were adopted by the European Commission on December 19, 2012 and came into effect on March 15, 2013.
A Swap Execution Facility (SEF) is a platform for financial swap trading that provides pre-trade information and a mechanism for executing swap transactions among eligible participants.
ICE Clear Credit LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, is a Derivatives Clearing Organisation (DCO) previously known as ICE Trust US LLC which was launched in March 2009. ICE offers trade execution and processing for the credit derivatives markets through Creditex and clearing through ICE Trust™. ICE Clear Credit LLC operates as a central counterparty (CCP) and clearinghouse for credit default swap (CDS) transactions conducted by its participants. ICE Clear Credit LLC is a subsidiary of IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). ICE Clear Credit LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of ICE US Holding Company LP which is "organized under the law of the Cayman Islands but has consented to the jurisdiction of United States courts and government agencies with respect to matters arising out of federal banking laws."
A master transaction agreement is a contract reached between two parties in a financial transaction in which the parties agree to most of the terms that will govern future transactions. Many master transaction agreements are standardized and most are bilateral.