CME Goes To Collateral DefCon 1: Makes Maintenance Margin Equal To Initial For... Everything!?
Update: Based on unofficial statements by the CME, it appears that the exchange has gone the way of inviting more risk by lowering Initial to meet existing Maintenance margin across the board. We will likely only know for certain on Monday. We suppose the proposed explanation will be to minimize margin exposure for onboarded MF positions. Of course, that this is very much counterintuitive at a time when risk is spiking and vol readings per SPAN are soaring, and instead is inviting even more risk, is apparently irrelevant to the exchange.
The most important news announcement of the day was not anything to came out of Cannes (as nothing did), nor from Greece (the merry go round farce there continues unabated). No, it was a brief paragraph distributed by the CME long after everyone had gone home, and was already on their 3rd drink. It is critical, because not only is this announcement a direct consequence of what happened with MF Global several days ago, but because also it confirms one of our biggest concerns: systemic liquidity is non-existanet. We confirmed interbank liquidity in Europe was at an all time low earlier today, and can only assume the same is true for US banks. But what is very disturbing is that this is just as true at the exchange level, where it appears the aftermath of the MF collapse is just now being felt. What exactly was the announcement. Unless we are completely reading it incorrectly, it is nothing short of a margin call for tens if not hundreds of billions worth of product. Because as of close of business on November 4, today, the CME just made the maintenance margin, traditionally about 26% lower than the initial margin for specs, equal. For everything. Which means that by close of business Monday, millions of options and futures holders will be forced to deposit billions in additional capital to the CME just so they are not found to be margin deficient, and thus receive a margin call. Naturally, since it is very unlikely that this incremental amount of liquidity can be easily procured in one business day, we anticipate the issuance of hundreds of thousands of margin calls Monday, followed by forced liquidations of margin accounts across America... and the world. Just like when Lehman blew up, it took 5 days for Money Markets to break. Is this unprecedented elimination in the distinction between initial and maintenance margin the post-MF equivalent of the first domino to fall this time around?
From the CME (source):
And for those asking, here is a complete breakdown of all CME products and associated margins: