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As the European debt crisis threatens to spiral out of control, banks are scrambling behind the scenes to protect their balance sheets and hedge their exposure to ride-out an increasingly scary 2012.
But while some of the moves may help mitigate the losses from Armageddon, market watchers say certain financial insurance policies — particularly credit default swaps on sovereign debt — may not work in a new financial crisis.
Banks are loading up on hedges against a possible European financial collapse. The notional amounts outstanding of over-the-counter derivatives rose 18 percent in the first half of 2011 to $708 trillion as of June 2011, a record high, according to a report by the Bank of International Settlements released Wednesday. In the second half of 2010, the notional value rose only by 3 percent.
Over the counter derivatives are private agreements between parties, different from derivative contracts that are traded through exchanges. The notional value of contracts provides a measure of market size, but not the actual measure of the value that is at risk among participants.
"Given all the increased volatility — the unusual conditions with the dollar and the euro, the debt crisis in Europe, the debt problems of the U.S. — you are seeing an increase in hedging," says Steve Wyatt, professor and Chair of the Finance Department at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University, Ohio. "The more astute observers in the market have come to the conclusion that the ECB will not buy enough paper to change the market view on this because of inflation fears. The only way out of this is fiscal integration or some modification of the membership in the Euro. That is not going to be quick or clean. That is the risk participants are hedging against."
Here's a quick snapshot of their exposure and hedges purchased, according to latest disclosures.
Citigroup has a net funded exposure to Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain of about $7.2 billion. That figure has been arrived at after netting out hedges worth $9.2 billion and margin and collateral of about $4.1 billion. In addition, Citi has $9.2 billion in unfunded commitments to the region.
Morgan Stanley said it had $2.1 billion in net exposure to the troubled five countries and $5.7 billion in gross exposure.
Goldman Sachs ha
s a gross exposure of $4.16 billion and a net exposure of $2.46 billion.
Bank of America has a gross exposure of $14.6 billion and has purchased credit protection worth $1.65 billion
JPMorgan Chase has a gross exposure of $20.3 billion and a net exposure of $15.1 billion after netting hedges worth $5.2 billion.
Originally posted by surrealist
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The shortfall in customer cash held by collapsed brokerage firm MF Global may have doubled to $1.2bn (£760m), according to liquidators.
Original estimates of a shortfall in customer cash were around $600bn.