Sunday, October 5, 2008


I learned about Derivatives way, way back in 1989 when I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade. Although at first I was a bit overwhelmed at their very existence and seemingly unfathomable potential for complexity, I took it that they were well understood by the mainstream business class. So, it still seems bizarre to me these days when financial reporters seem to have to instruct the audience about them. Anway, I like how Warren Buffet put it:

"The range of derivatives contracts is limited only by the imagination of man (or sometimes, so it seems, madmen)."

Back in 1989, these class of investments seemed to just simply be called Derivatives (ocassionally Shorts, Forwards, etc), but perhaps nowadays the jargon has expanded. They served a useful purpose for commodities markets, protecting the farmer (I posess no objective lens on this, I was exposed to the CBOT just out of High School) from the vagaries of weather. I'm supposing now that the real problem that eventually sprung up was the application of these hedge strategies to inappropriate lengths... insuring against nature is one thing, but insuring against man-made calamities is another.

Anyway, be sure you understand Derivatives.

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