While the dominant topic of conversation when discussing margin hikes (or reductions) usually reverts to silver, ES (stocks) and TEN (bonds), what everyone so far is ignoring is the far more critical topic of real margin risk, in the form of roughly $600 trillion in OTC derivatives. The issue is that while the silver market (for example) is tiny by comparison, it is easy to be pushed around, and thus exchanges can easily represent the illusion that they are in control of counterparty risk (after all, that was the whole point of the recent CME essay on why they hiked silver margins 5 times in a row). Nothing could be further from the truth: where exchanges are truly at risk is when it comes to mitigating the threat of counterparty default for participants in a market that is millions of times bigger than the silver market: the interest rate and credit default swap markets. As part of Dodd-Frank, by the end of 2012, all standardised over-the-counter derivatives will have to be cleared through central counterparties. Yet currently, central clearing covers about half of $400 trillion in
interest rate swaps, 20-30 percent of the $2.5 trillion
in commodities derivatives, and about 10 percent of $30 trillion in
credit default swaps. In other words, over the next year and a half exchanges need to onboard over $200 trillion notional in various products, and in doing so, counterparites, better known as the G14 (or Group of 14 dealers that dominate derivatives trading including Bank of America-Merrill Lynch,
Barclays Capital, BNP Paribas, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche
Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, RBS,
Societe Generale, UBS and Wells Fargo Bank) will soon need to post billions in initial margin, and as a brand new BIS report indicates, will likely need significant extra cash to be in compliance with regulatory requirements. Not only that, but once trading on an exchange, the G14 "could face a cash shortfall in very volatile markets when daily margins are increased, triggering demands for several billions of dollars to be paid within a day." Per the BIS "These margin calls could represent as much as 13 percent of a G14 dealer's current holdings of cash and cash equivalents in the case of interest rate swaps." Below we summarize the key findings of a just released discussion by the BIS on the "Expansion of central clearing" and also present a parallel report just released by BNY ConvergEx' Nicholas Colas who independetly has been having "bad dreams" about the possibility of what the transfer to an exchange would mean in terms of collateral posting (read bank cash payouts) and overall market stability, and why a multi-trillion margin call could result in the biggest buying spree in US Treasurys... Ever.