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Overnight Index Swap


An Overnight Index Swap (OIS) is a financial derivative instrument where two parties agree to swap interest payments on a specified nominal amount for a set period. One party will pay a fixed rate of interest and the other will pay a floating rate, usually linked to an overnight index rate such as the Federal Funds Rate. These swaps help to manage or speculate on short-term movements of interest rates.


The phonetics for the keyword: Overnight Index Swap is: ˈəʊvərnaɪt ˈɪndɛks swɑːp

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition and Use: An Overnight Index Swap (OIS) is a derivative contract in which two parties agree to exchange an overnight interest rate for a fixed interest rate. It allows financial institutions to manage and hedge their interest rate risk. OIS are typically used to speculate on central bank policy rate changes or utilized as a reference rate for other financial transactions.

  2. Trading Mechanism: In an OIS, one party will pay a fixed rate of interest for the term of the swap, and in return, receive a floating rate of interest tied to the overnight index rate. The floating rate is typically calculated as the geometric mean of the overnight index rate over the swap’s term. The actual payments between parties will typically take place only at the end of the term of the swap, based on the “notional” amount agreed between parties.

  3. Risk Management: OIS are often used as a risk management tool. By swapping a variable interest rate for a fixed rate, companies can protect themselves from adverse movements in interest rates, providing a kind of insurance against geopolitical factors, economic instability, or policy changes that could affect their borrowing costs. Therefore, OIS play a critical role in managing interest rate risk within the financial system.


An Overnight Index Swap (OIS) is important in business and finance because it serves as a critical risk management tool, helping entities to hedge exposure to or profit from fluctuations in short-term interest rates. The OIS involves an agreement between two parties to exchange a fixed rate interest payment for a floating rate payment linked to an overnight index such as the Federal Funds rate. Being usually linked to the central bank’s funds rate, the OIS can be seen as an indicator of the market’s expectation of the central bank’s monetary policy. Furthermore, they are also used by market participants to gauge credit and liquidity risk in the interbank lending market. Overall, the importance of the OIS lies in its capacity to manage risk, influence monetary policy expectations, and assess credit stability.


An Overnight Index Swap (OIS) is predominantly used by financial institutions for risk management purposes, specifically interest rate risk. The OIS allows financial institutions to hedge themselves from fluctuations in the overnight rates, thereby reducing or even eliminating their interest rate risk. The exposure to constantly varying overnight lending rates could create uncertainty regarding borrowing costs of the institution. By engaging in an OIS, institutions can swap the variable interest rate payments for fixed ones (or vice versa), enabling them to lock in their borrowing costs irrespective of the overnight interest rate movements.Additionally, OISs also serve as critical financial indicators, reflecting the market’s expectations of the central bank’s monetary policy. Market participants observe OIS rates to infer the direction of future short-term interest rates determined by the central bank, which greatly influences the overall direction of the economy. As a result, OIS rates can help individuals, businesses, and policy-makers make more informed decisions about investment, consumption, and policy formulation, respectively.


1. Central Banks: Central banks use overnight index swaps to manage and maintain market liquidity. For instance, during the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve used overnight index swaps to pump liquidity into the financial markets in order to stabilize them. Banks borrowed overnight from the Central Bank at the established overnight rate, swapped these rates with other short-term rates, helping the banks manage their interest rate risk and enhancing liquidity.2. Investment Banks: Investment banks often use overnight index swaps to hedge the risk on other investments they hold. For example, J.P. Morgan may hold a range of securities whose value is influenced by short-term interest rates. By entering an OIS, they can swap the variable interest rate of their securities for a fixed rate, protecting them against potential interest rate hikes.3. Hedge Funds: Hedge funds also use the OIS market to profit from their understanding of Central Bank policy. A fund manager might take a position on an overnight index swap if they anticipate that overnight lending rates will rise or fall based on their assessment of overall economic conditions or the next actions of the central bank. If the manager predicts correctly, the fund will make a profit on the contract.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Overnight Index Swap (OIS)?

An Overnight Index Swap (OIS) is a type of interest rate swap where the fixed portion of the swap is exchanged for the average rate of an overnight index, such as the Federal Funds Rate.

How does an OIS work?

In an OIS, two parties agree on a specified term and notional amount. One party will pay a fixed interest rate and the other the average of the overnight rate over the term of the swap.

What is the purpose of an Overnight Index Swap?

OIS is primarily utilized for hedging and speculating purposes. Financial institutions use it to manage or minimize interest rate risk, while speculators use it to make profit from an anticipated change in short-term interest rates.

How is the rate of an OIS determined?

The rate of an OIS is determined by the average rate of an overnight interest rate, such as the Federal Funds Rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), over a specified time period.

What is the relationship between an Overnight Index Swap and Central Bank Policy Rate?

The rate of an OIS of a particular currency often serves as a gauge of market expectations for where the central bank of that currency will set its policy rate. The higher the OIS rate, the higher the expectation for the central bank’s policy rate.

Does the OIS have any counterparty risk?

Since OIS contracts are typically collateralized, counterparty risk is significantly lessened. The collateral helps to insure the swap against the possibility of either party defaulting on their agreement.

Is an Overnight Index Swap the same as a standard interest rate swap?

No. While both involve the exchange of interest rates, a standard interest rate swap involves the exchange of a fixed interest rate for a floating rate over a set period of time, whereas an OIS swaps a fixed rate with the geometric average of an overnight rate over a set period.

Who are the typical parties in an OIS transaction?

The parties involved in an OIS transaction are typically financial institutions such as banks, investment firms, or government entities.

Can an OIS be traded on an exchange?

No, OIS transactions are typically over-the-counter (OTC) trades which means they are privately negotiated between two parties, rather than through an exchange.

: Can anyone take part in an Overnight Index Swap?

While technically anyone could engage in an OIS, the complexity, and associated costs mean that it is typically only used by large financial institutions, corporations or governments. It’s typically not an investment vehicle utilized by individuals or small investors.

Related Finance Terms

  • Interbank Rate: This is the rate of interest charged on short-term loans between banks, often plays a significant role in determining the fixed rate in an Overnight Index Swap.
  • Derivatives: Overnights Index Swaps are a type of financial derivative, which is a contract that derives its value from an underlying asset or group of assets.
  • LIBOR (London Interbank Offer Rate): This is a globally accepted benchmark interest rate at which banks lend to one another. It could be used as a comparison rate for the interest rate of an Overnight Index Swap.
  • Central Bank: The institution that often creates the overnight rate, which is used in the floating portion of an Overnight Index Swap.
  • Interest Rate Risk: The risk arising from the potential changes in interest rates that could impact the profitability of the Overnight Index Swap to either party.

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