Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Derivatives Bomb.

In 2009, five banks held 80% of derivatives in America. Now, just four banks hold a staggering 95.9% of U.S. derivatives, according to a recent report from the Office of the Currency Comptroller

The four banks in question: JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS).

Derivatives played a crucial role in bringing down the global economy, so you would think that the world's top policymakers would have reined these things in by now - but they haven't. 

Instead of attacking the problem, regulators have let it spiral out of control, and the result is a $600 trillion time bomb called the derivatives market. 



A governmental default would panic already anxious investors, causing a run on several major European banks in an effort to recover their deposits. That would, in turn, cause several banks to literally run out of money and declare bankruptcy.

Short-term borrowing costs would skyrocket and liquidity would evaporate. That would cause a ricochet across the Atlantic as the institutions themselves then panic and try to recover their own capital by withdrawing liquidity by any means possible.

And that's why banks are hoarding cash instead of lending it.

The major banks know there is no way they can collateralize the potential daisy chain failure that Greece represents. So they're doing everything they can to stockpile cash and keep their trading under wraps and away from public scrutiny. 



Although American banks have limited their exposure to Greece, they have loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to European banks and European governments that may not be capable of paying them back. 

According to the Bank of International Settlements, U.S. banks have loaned only $60.5 billion to banks in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy - the countries most at risk of default. But they've lent $275.8 billion to French and German banks. 


And undoubtedly bet trillions on the same debt. 

There are three key takeaways here:

  • There is not enough capital on hand to cover the possible losses associated with the default of a single counterparty - JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), BNP Paribas SA (PINK: BNPQY) or the National Bank of Greece (NYSE ADR: NBG) for example - let alone multiple failures.
  • That means banks with large derivatives exposure have to risk even more money to generate the incremental returns needed to cover the bets they've already made.
  • And the fact that Wall Street believes it has the risks under control practically guarantees that it doesn't.
Seems to me that the world's central bankers and politicians should be less concerned about stimulating "demand" and more concerned about fixing derivatives before this $600 trillion time bomb goes off.




Courtesy: http://moneymorning.com/2011/10/12/derivatives-the-600-trillion-time-bomb-thats-set-to-explode/

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