What Is a Derivative?

The term derivative refers to a type of financial contract whose value is dependent on an underlying asset, group of assets, or benchmark. A derivative is set between two or more parties that can trade on an exchange or over-the-counter (OTC). These contracts can be used to trade any number of assets and carry their own risks. Prices for derivatives derive from fluctuations in the underlying asset. These financial securities are commonly used to access certain markets and may be traded to hedge against risk.12

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