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In finance, a swap is a derivative in which two counterparties exchange certain benefits of one party's financial instrument for those of the other party's financial instrument. The benefits in question depend on the type of financial instruments involved. Specifically, the two counterparties agree to exchange one stream of cash flows against another stream. These streams are called the legs of the swap. The swap agreement defines the dates when the cash flows are to be paid and the way they are calculated.[1] Usually at the time when the contract is initiated at least one of these series of cash flows is determined by a random or uncertain variable such as an interest rate, foreign exchange rate, equity price or commodity price.[1]

Credit Default Swap (CDS)

A credit default swap (CDS) is a swap contract in which the protection buyer of the CDS makes a series of payments to the protection seller and, in exchange, receives a payoff if a credit instrument (typically a bond or loan) goes into default.
Basic Credit Default Swap (CDS) diagram.svg

In its simplest form, a credit default swap is a bilateral contract between the buyer and seller of protection. The CDS will refer to a specified bond obligation of a “reference entity”, usually a corporation or government. The reference entity is not a party to the contract. The protection buyer makes quarterly premium payments—the “spread”—to the protection seller. If the reference entity defaults, the protection seller pays the buyer the par value of the bond in exchange for physical delivery of the bond, although settlement may also be by cash or auction. A default is referred to as a 'Credit Event' and include such events as failure to pay, restructuring and bankruptcy. Most CDS’s are in the $10–$20 million range with maturities between one and 10 years.

Currency Swap

What does it Mean?     A swap that involves the exchange of principal and interest in one currency for the same in another currency. It is considered to be a foreign exchange transaction and is not required by law to be shown on the balance sheet.
Investopedia Says...     For example, suppose a U.S.-based company needs to acquire Swiss francs and a Swiss-based company needs to acquire U.S. dollars. These two companies could arrange to swap currencies by establishing an interest rate, an agreed upon amount and a common maturity date for the exchange. Currency swap maturities are negotiable for at least 10 years, making them a very flexible method of foreign exchange.

Currency swaps were originally done to get around exchange controls.

Interest Rate Swap

What does it Mean?     An agreement between two parties (known as counterparties) where one stream of future interest payments is exchanged for another based on a specified principal amount. Interest rate swaps often exchange a fixed payment for a floating payment that is linked to an interest rate (most often the LIBOR). A company will typically use interest rate swaps to limit, or manage, its exposure to fluctuations in interest rates, or to obtain a marginally lower interest rate than it would have been able to get without the swap.
Investopedia Says...     Interest rate swaps are simply the exchange of one set of cash flows (based on interest rate specifications) for another. Because they trade OTC, they are really just contracts set up between two or more parties, and thus can be customized in any number of ways.

Generally speaking, swaps are sought by firms that desire a type of interest rate structure that another firm can provide less expensively. For example, let's say Cory's Tequila Company (CTC) is seeking to loan funds at a fixed interest rate, but Tom's Sports Inc. (TSI) has access to marginally cheaper fixed-rate funds. Tom's Sports can issue debt to investors at its low fixed rate and then trade the fixed-rate cash flow obligations to CTC for floating-rate obligations issued by TSI. Even though TSI may have a higher floating rate than CTC, by swapping the interest structures they are best able to obtain inexpensively, the combined costs are decreased - a benefit that can be shared by both parties.

(c) The information under this section is originally from Wikipedia and is used under the following licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/