Equities: New extremes and a challenging opportunity set
Discover insights on the future of equity markets in Q1 2024 and navigate the potential recession with strategic investment choices.
Summary: Hedging is a risk management strategy that can be used to protect individual positions or your whole portfolio. It involves creating a position that will move in the opposite direction of the initial position and (temporarily) reduce your risk. This can help to give piece of mind during periods of uncertainty, without the need to (partly) liquidate your holdings.
The complexity of your investment portfolio increases. You may, for instance, have to deal with margin
There are costs associated with maintaining the hedge. Think of possible interest costs, the spread, the transaction costs and possible roll-over costs
The upside potential has (largely) disappeared due to the holding of a short future on the index
The portfolio must be (very) well correlated with the index on which you take the future position
A portfolio consisting of a very limited number of stocks may, under normal circumstances, correlate well with the index (on which futures are available). However, a sharp decline in one of the stocks in the portfolio will be noticeable in the portfolio but remain invisible in the futures of the broader market (the hedge). In that case, a loss is incurred on the portfolio that is not offset by the hedge
The contract size of the future: a future might be "too big"
How many futures does Mr. Smith have to sell short to hedge his portfolio as precisely as possible?
The contract size of the future on the EuroSTOXX50 is 10 (you can check this in the order ticket). This means that the exposure of 1 future is EUR 37,000 (at an index level of 3,700).
A total of EUR 250,000 must be hedged and 250,000/37,000 = 6.74. When selling seven futures, he is therefore left with a small short position. If he were to sell six futures, he would have a small long position left. Mr. Smith decides to sell six futures.
Graphically, it looks like this:
In the first scenario, the market moves sideways. Both the portfolio and the hedge do not materially change in value. Upon returning from abroad, the hedged position is closed. The Smith family has in any case ensured a relaxing holiday.
If the index were to fall 5% to 3,515, it would cost EUR 12,500 on the portfolio side. But the future position has made money. The six futures that Smith is short can be closed 185 points lower with a profit. The calculation: 185 * 10 * 6 = EUR 11,100. In this case, the hedge has largely worked, but because of the small long position remaining, a decline in the market has had a limited negative effect.
One reason to (partially) hedge a portfolio could be a stay abroad. If you have no time, no desire or no internet connection to monitor your portfolio, hedging offers a way to reduce the risk. Another reason may be that you are simply not comfortable with the current market conditions and that you are afraid of a sharp decline. Liquidating the portfolio goes too far, so (temporarily) hedging the portfolio is a very practical alternative.
A well-diversified portfolio can be largely hedged with a short future on a well-correlated index. If you plan to follow this strategy, make sure you understand exactly how futures work. And don't forget to pay attention to the contract size.
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