Thoughts From the Frontline, Credit Default Swaps

5 posts tagged with “Credit Default Swaps”.

Gambling in the House?

July 28, 2012

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
– From the classic scene in Casablanca, made in 1942

The latest scandal du jour seems to be about what is now called LIBORgate. But is it a scandal or is it really just business as usual? And if we don’t know which it is, what does that say about how we organize the financial world, in which $300-800 trillion, give or take, is based on LIBOR? This is actually just the second verse of the old song about derivatives, which is a much larger market. Which of course is a problem that was not solved by Dodd-Frank and that has the potential to once again create true havoc with the markets, whereas LIBOR can only cost a few billion here and there. (Sarcasm intended.)

The problem is the lack of transparency. Why would banks want to reveal how much profit they are making? The last thing they want is transparency. This week I offer a different take on LIBOR, one which may annoy a few readers, but which I hope provokes some thinking about how we should organize our financial world.


There Will Be Contagion

March 10, 2012

… (December 11, 2009) – Greece's prime minister, George Papandreou, told reporters in Brussels on Friday that European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker see "no possibility" of a Greek default, Bloomberg News reported. Papandreou also said that there was no possibility of Greece leaving the euro area, according to the report.


Changing the Rules in the Middle of the Game

November 26, 2011

Angela Merkel is leading the call for a rule change, a rewiring of the basic treaty that binds the EU. But is it both too much and too late? The market action suggests that time is indeed running out, and so we’ll look at the likely consequences. Then I glance over the other way and take notice of news out of China that may be of import. Plus a few links for your weekend listening “pleasure.” There is lots to cover, so let’s get started.


European Summit: A Plan with No Details

October 29, 2011

Where is the peace dividend that was supposed to come after the end of the Cold War? Where are the fruits of the amazing gains in efficiency that technology has afforded? It has been eaten by the bureaucracy that manages our every move on this earth. The voracious and insatiable monster here is called the Federal Code that calls on thousands of agencies to exercise the police power to prevent us from living free lives.

It is as Bastiat said: the real cost of the state is the prosperity we do not see, the jobs that don't exist, the technologies to which we do not have access, the businesses that do not come into existence, and the bright future that is stolen from us. The state has looted us just as surely as a robber who enters our home at night and steals all that we love.

- William "Bill" Bonner

Exactly what happened in Europe yesterday? The market reacted like it was the Second Coming of the Solution to End All Solutions. No problem here! The European debt crisis is solved! But if you look deeply (almost always dangerous when it comes to Europe) there is more to the market "melt-up" than simple euphoria and relief. What you find is a very disturbing unintended consequence that will come back to haunt us, as, sadly, I have written about in the past. The finger points to our old friends derivatives and credit default swaps. This week, as I recover from a rather nasty bug, we look at gamma and delta and other odd entities that may be behind the real reason for the market response, as we march inexorably toward the final chapters of the Endgame. Let's see how far out on a limb I can go.

But first an important announcement. I am very excited to be able to introduce my readers to a mutual fund offered by my friends at Altegris Investments. This special fund is a blend of five commodity trading advisors, or CTAs. Normally, to access a CTA you be to be an accredited investor, with all the net-worth requirements and limited liquidity. But Altegris has figured out how to wrap a mutual fund around CTAs and create a fund of commodity traders with all the usual aspects of a mutual fund (daily pricing, liquidity, etc.).

I have long been involved in the commodity-trading advisor space (some 20 years) and am a proponent of CTAs as a way to diversify portfolio risk. I have written a detailed report on this fascinating sector in relation to the fund, and it is available for free at http://www.altegrismutualfunds.com/landing/mauldinreports1.aspx, along with more information on the fund (including the offering memorandum and important risk disclosures, which are also included at the end of this letter).

The fund has been very well received since its launch and has grown rapidly to almost $1 billion. There has been very active interest in the professional community, as advisors and brokers are looking for simple and realistic ways to diversify their clients' portfolio risk in a manner that is truly noncorrelated to typical stock funds and many other asset classes. Whether you are a professional or individual, you really should take the time to research what I think is a very solid fund. My partners at Altegris have decades of experience in the CTA space, with the largest available database of CTAs and long-term relationships with many of the managers (I actually started my investment career in the commodity fund space, so I have more than a passing knowledge of the arena). Given the potential for volatility in the global markets, I think it makes sense to have some exposure to funds that can go both long and short (depending on their models). I urge you to read my report:

http://www.altegrismutualfunds.com/landing/mauldinreports1.aspx


Time to Get Outraged

June 10, 2011

This week we look at data from the Bank of International Settlements, by which (if someone does a lot of work) you can figure out how much US banks have written in credit default swaps to banks in Europe on Greek, Irish, and Portuguese debt. The details should not make you happy. I meditate on whether one should buy a house now, and then discuss “the way out” of all this mess and why we will Muddle Through. Oh, and I’ll ask you for help on yet another book project, on creating jobs. And all while trying to finish early enough to go to dinner. So let’s get started.