Have you ever heard of Credit Default Swaps?

Have you had enough yet of all the discussions, opinions, suggestions, agendas and lunacy regarding the stock market?  I've been watching for a while what is the ultimate effect of credit default swaps (CDS).  It is rumored that there are approximately trillions (U.S. dollars) worth of these puppies lurking out there.  That is no typo, yes trillions not billions worth of these unregulated contracts between a buyer and seller.  Some estimates put CDS liability up to $60 trillion U.S. dollars.  Basically CDS are insurance contracts if a credit instrument (e.g. bonds) defaults.  They cannot technically be called insurance because they are unregulated.  Since they are unregulated there is no requirement to report or track these instruments.  That's sounds a little broken you would think.

A good example is Lehman Brothers.  Lehman's bonds recently have traded for less than $.20 (U.S. dollars).  That means the seller of CDS on these bonds are liable to payoff the other $.80 (U.S. dollars).  These payoffs are going to absolutely impact negatively the institutions that issued the CDS. Instruments such as the CDS have complex probability mathematics behind them.  Created by intellects who went to work on Wall Street. Definitely something I'd personally stay away.  The derivative market is clearly not for the faint of heart. Trouble has been brewing for a while as reporting has disclosed.  The cascading effect across the world was obvious.  I don't know how some could say that this was a U.S. economy only problem.  Markets and investors worldwide are ultimately linked as a result of technology.  Investment options are available to almost anyone, anywhere via the access of a computer.  In my opinion the complex automated trading algorithms of buy .vs sell in the market do not take into account the variable of human fear.  How does a computer program stop a run on the bank without human intervention? That is intervention coordinated with complaint on a global level.   Would love to know where money is flowing to and where it is flowing from...  I'd guess it is flowing to banks where governments are insuring deposits and from banks where there is none.    Have we thought through the long term effects yet?  Truly fascinating.


Comments:

The past decade has been a reminder that "boring" science of economics impacts all of us in interesting and scary ways. I'm starting to understand the value of psychology, sociology, data analysis (trends.google...), computer science, statistics and mathematics in the science of economics. If it turns out that a "bug" (summing probabilities which weren't entirely independent variables) caused CDOs to be overvalued, will there be a new standard for financial software? Will the standard require interval math? (http://research.sun.com/minds/2004-0527/).

A few years ago I found a chart which showed the flow of tax money within the U.S. At that time a huge portion flowed from the industrial midwest (Detroit...) out to the coasts. It would be interesting to see what the flow diagram looks like now. I suspect internal money flow is overwhelmed by dollar exports for oil and cheap manufactured products.

Posted by bnitz on November 11, 2008 at 02:35 AM EST #

Here is the study with graphs of estimated tax flow:

http://www.geog.ucsb.edu/~tobler/publications/pdf_docs/movement/Fed_flow.pdf

And for any data vizualization jockeys out there, here is the latest data:

http://www.census.gov/govs/www/cffr03.html

Posted by bnitz on November 11, 2008 at 02:59 AM EST #

Interesting data!

Posted by Robert Porras on November 25, 2008 at 07:52 AM EST #

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The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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