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First-quarter financials mark the first time comprehensive derivatives disclosure was mandated for all U.S. companies.
While derivatives use among U.S. companies is widespread, an "overwhelming majority of the exposure is concentrated among financial institutions," according to the rating agency's review of first-quarter financials.
Concentrated, in fact, among a mere handful of financial-services giants. About 80% of the derivative assets and liabilities carried on the balance sheets of 100 companies reviewed by Fitch were held by five banks: JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. Those five banks also account for more than 96% of the companies' exposure to credit derivatives.
About 52% of the companies reviewed disclosed there were credit-risk-related contingent features in their derivative positions. Such features require a company to post collateral or settle outstanding derivative liabilities if there's a downgrade of the company's credit rating.
The Fitch analysts also found that just 22 companies disclosed the use of equity derivatives. Just six nonfinancial firms — IBM, General Motors, Verizon, Comcast, Textron, and PG&E — reported exposure to share-based derivatives.
For the report, the rating agency reviewed first-quarter 2009 filings of the companies, which come from a range of industries and represent almost $6.4 trillion in aggregate outstanding debt. The companies also recorded a total notional amount of derivative positions of more than $296 trillion.