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What is an Underlying Asset

The term "underlying asset" is often used in the domain of finance and investments. It refers to the primary financial instrument or security upon which a derivative contract is based. It forms the foundation or "underlying" value for a derivative's price or performance and represents the fundamental value that determines the price or performance of a financial instrument or derivative.

What are Derivatives?

Derivatives are financial contracts or instruments that obtain their value from an underlying asset. Derivatives are like agreements that derive their worth from something else, such as stocks, commodities, or currencies. The value of a derivative is linked to the performance or price movements of the underlying asset. This allows investors to speculate on or manage risks associated with the underlying asset without directly owning it. Derivatives play a significant role in financial markets. These are used by investors for purposes like hedging, speculation, and also gaining exposure to specific markets. 

Examples of derivatives include options, futures, swaps, and forwards. These financial instruments are commonly used to manage risks, predict price changes, or invest in specific markets.

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What Are The Types of Underlying Assets?

Underlying assets have different categories, such as stocks, commodities, currencies, bonds, and indices. Here's a breakdown of these categories:


Underlying assets can be individual stocks, representing ownership in a specific company. Derivatives based on stocks are often used for hedging, speculation, or investment purposes.


Commodities like gold, oil, natural gas, wheat, corn, etc. are also underlying assets. Derivatives based on commodities provide investors with exposure to price movements in these markets without directly owning the physical assets.


Underlying assets can also be currencies, such as the U.S. Dollar, British Pound, Euro, Or Japanese Yen. Currency derivatives allow investors to speculate on exchange rate movements or hedge against currency risk.


Bonds issued by governments or corporations can act as underlying assets. Derivatives based on bonds provide investors with exposure to interest rate movements or credit risk associated with these fixed-income securities.


Underlying assets can also be stock market indices, like NASDAQ. Derivatives based on indices allow investors to gain exposure to the overall performance of a specific market.

What Is The Relationship between Underlying Assets and Derivatives?

Derivatives derive their value from the underlying assets through a specified contract or agreement. The price or performance of a derivative is influenced by the changes in the value of the underlying asset. For instance, with an options contract, you have the choice to buy or sell the asset at a set price within a specific time.

Similarly, if you purchase a futures contract on a commodity like oil, the underlying asset is the physical oil itself. The price of a futures contract is affected by oil market changes. When oil prices go up, the contract's value also increases, and vice versa.

What Is The Importance of Underlying Assets?

Understanding the concept of underlying assets is crucial for investors and traders involved in derivatives markets. By analysing the characteristics and behaviour of the underlying asset, market participants can make informed decisions about buying or selling derivatives.

Underlying assets play a vital role in risk management. Companies like airlines or manufacturers, which depend on commodities, can use derivatives to protect themselves from price changes. By locking in prices for future purchases, these companies can mitigate the risk of sudden increases in commodity prices.


An underlying asset forms the basis of value for derivative contracts. It can be a stock, commodity, currency, bond, or index. Derivatives derive their worth from the fluctuations in the value of the underlying asset. Understanding the relationship between derivatives and their underlying assets is essential for investors looking to manage risk, speculate on price movements, or gain exposure to specific markets.


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