Here There Be Big Nymbers (Sic)

Tyler Durden's picture

The earlier discussion of CDS, Einhorn, and the US UST-CDS basis trade, sparked a flurry of queries on the topic of "really big numbers." Therefore, even as ZH staff awaits the most recent data out of the BIS, we present for your numeric (in)comprehension pleasure lots and lots of zeroes. The chart below summarizes the biggest relevant numbers currently out there, appearing as pixels occasionally on every single computer in the financial world. And what does it say? That the total notional value of all OTC derivative contracts as of the most recent count (sucks to be on the recount committee), was $592,000,000,000,000.00 at the end of 2008. Fear not: this number is actually a reduction from the most recent previous read of $683,700,000,000,000.00 in June of 2008. Well wait, that thing we said about fear not, ignore that: because the net notional, or the market value of all OTC contracts, i.e. what someone (cough taxpayer cough) would be on the hook for when the Fed's plans go astray, increased by 66.5% over the same period, to $33,900,000,000,000.00. Like we said, big numbers - and this is just OTC. The real number includes regulated exchanges, and to estimate that, double the numbers above. In totality, the "sidebets" on everything from interest rates, to F/X to corporate default risk, amount to about $1.3-$1.4 quadrillion (that's 15 zeroes before the decimal comma) in terms of uncollateralized liquidity (think inflation buffer): take all those zeroes away and the value of the dollar would go down by 1E10-15: you listening yet American middle class? And the actual exposure, or "money at risk" is roughly $60 trillion: a number which is about the same as the world GDP if one were to remove all the various stimulus programs. Take away Goldman, JP Morgan, and all the other wannabe BSD's, and this is what you end up with: the heart and soul of the Too Big To Fail monster itself. And there is no way on earth to stop that mangled, mutated heartbeat without destroying the very fabric of both our capital markets and societal system. Please give the Federal Reserve a golf clap for this truly amazing accomplishment.

So with everyone and the kitchen sink focused on CDS and the neutron bomb that they undoubtedly must be if even such anointed shamans of CDSology as David Einhorn (one wonders, will David donate the billions of dollars he has made while trading CDS to charity?) say they are evil incarnate, here is the truth about CDS courtesy of the Fed's Fed- the Bank of International Settlements.

The volume of outstanding CDS contracts fell 27.0% to $41.9 trillion against a background of severely strained credit markets and increased multilateral netting of offsetting positions by market participants. This was a continuation of the developments seen in the first half of 2008. Single-name contracts declined by 22.8% to $25.7 trillion while multi-name contracts, a category that includes CDS indices and CDS index tranches, saw a more pronounced decrease of 32.7%, to $16.1 trillion.

Despite the lower outstanding volumes, the gross market value for CDS contracts increased by 78.2% to $5.7 trillion as a result of the credit market turmoil. Gross market values grew 95.6% to $3.7 trillion for single-name contracts and 52.5% to $2.0 trillion for multi-name contracts. [As noted previously, the $5.7 trillion number has since collapsed to under $3 trillion as per most recent DTCC data].

Greater use of multilateral netting during the second half of 2008 also resulted in a change in composition across contract types (Graph 3, left-hand panel). Amounts outstanding of multinamecontracts fell 32.7% to $16.1 trillion, while the 22.8% decline in single-name contracts to $25.7 trillion was somewhat smaller.

The composition across counterparties also changed during the second half of 2008 (Graph 3, centre panel). Although the amount of CDS contracts between reporting dealers declined 24.4%, this was smaller than the 29.8% decrease in outstanding contracts between dealers and other financial institutions and the 47.7% drop in contract volumes between dealers and non-financial institutions.

Developments in gross market values across counterparties reflected the uneven declines in the outstanding volumes for the different market segments (Graph 3, right-hand panel). The market value of contracts between reporting dealers grew by 89.3% to $3.2 trillion, representing 56.2% of the total market value of outstanding CDS contracts. The market value of contracts between reporting dealers and other financial institutions increased by 66.3%, while the market value of contracts between dealers and non-financial institutions was 51.0% higher.


Less than $3 trillion? I mean, how is that even worthy of an FT op-ed? Most people won't even bend over to pick up a $3 trillion bill on the street: sorry - if it doesn't have a quint-, or at least a quadr- in front of the -illion, people frankly don't give a shit, thank you Tim Geithner. Trillion is just so..... pre-Obama.

Yet where it gets moderately interesting is when analyzing Interest Rate derivatives (swaps, options and forwards), not only because the numbers suddenly really perk up, but because of the $420 trillion in notional OTC total, about $200 trillion is held by none other than the usual zombie stooges: Goldman, JPM, BofA, C and WFC. Do you see now why the Fed will kinda, sorta always and forever be forced to bail out this unholy pentagram? The shitstorm as a result of the collapse of one or more of the five major spokes of at least $420 trillion (and as much as $840 trillion) in IR derivs would basically wipe out anyone and everything in its path. No exceptions.

BIS on Interest rate derivatives:

In the second half of 2008 the market for OTC interest rate derivatives declined for the first time, after recording an above average rate of growth in the first half of the year. Notional amounts of these instruments fell to $418.7 trillion at the end of December 2008, 8.6% lower than six months before (Graph 2 and Table 3). Despite the decrease in notional amounts outstanding, declining interest rates resulted in a notable 98.9% increase in the gross market value of interest rate derivatives, to $18.4 trillion. [yes, that is a lot]

The amount outstanding of interest rate swaps decreased 8.0% to $328.1 trillion. Outstanding volumes of US dollar- and yen-denominated interest rate swaps remained virtually unchanged relative to the previous quarter. In contrast, interest rate swap markets denominated in euros (–10.6%), sterling (–24.2%), Australian dollars (–27.8%), Canadian dollars (–16.7%), Swedish kronor (–21.2%) and Swiss francs (–6.9%) all saw declines in the amounts outstanding.

The gross market value for interest rate swaps – the largest market by far – grew 105.7%, from $8.1 trillion to $16.6 trillion. The most significant increase took place in the US dollar swap market, where the gross market value surged 201.2% to $9.3 trillion. [gee, whose favorite Federal Reserve was singlehandedly responsible for this dollar swap love explosion?]

Outstanding volumes of options contracts declined 17.5% to $51.3 trillion. The gross market value of options grew by 51.3% to $1.7 trillion. The amounts outstanding of forward rate agreements (FRAs), the smallest of the interest rate derivative segments, remained stable at $39.3 trillion, while the gross market value of outstanding FRAs grew 74.4% to $153 billion.

Thus net notional exposure in IR land is nearly $20 trillion or almost double the US GDP (or triple if one excludes the impact of Obama funny-money). So why are we reading again how CDS is anti-social? By that logic IR swaps, sloshed around by the JPM-Goldman-BofA trio of Mutually Assured Destructors, is the pinnacle of delusional, schizophrenic, psychotic behavior. Which is not to say that the CDS' destructive impact should be underestimated. On the contrary: CDS, when handled by the current group of greedy, risk seeking idiots, will undoubtedly destroy the world. It is just a matter of time. However, to keep things in perspective, how about we also consider Interest Rate swaps, whose numerical danger is more than 5x that of CDS (again, really big n(y)mbers here). And we haven't even touched on FX, commodity, and equity derivatives.

Which brings us to our point: thank you Mr. Einhorn for finally starting to focus people's attention on one of the many facets of the Fed's uncontrollable liquidity Frankenstein. CDS, while destructive, is merely the appetizer. What will truly annihilate financial markets are all those instruments that are in place only to perpetuate the myth that a 5% interest rate in 30 year Treasurys is somehow exorbitant (based on a quick back of the envelope calc, should prevailing interest rates move higher by 1%, the net IR exposure will rise by $3 trillion... in the wrong direction... at an exponential pace). Yet what better way to keep rates where they are than than to tell China: "Hey guys, you bust one auction, and this spring loaded balloon full of $420 trillion pieces of worthless Washington feces will blow up right in your face (and take us all down with you)." In essence this is an amusing revision of that old fable: the Fed owes the world a few billion here and there: well, Ben, you are out of luck, "You're Fired"; the Fed owes the world $1.4 quadrillion in naked and worthless pieces of paper (whose nudity will become apparent the second someone calls Bernanke's bluff) and the Fed owns the world.

It is, Mr. Einhorn, unfortunately as simple as that. Which is why may we suggest after you are done with your philosphical anti-CDS crusade, that you take a long hard look at this BIS report and consider just who your friends in the business are: something tells us that of the JPM/GS/BofA trio you Prime with at least two of them. If you really want to make a stand against those who are abusing weapons of financial annihilation, maybe you can demonstrate your seriousness by cutting all prime brokerage relationships with Goldman and JP Morgan. Then, and only then, will we, and everyone else, know you are willing to put your money where you mouth is (and where your CDS P&L used to be).