The Beginning Of The End
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Billionaire Issues Chilling Warning About Interest Rate Derivatives

WarningWill rapidly rising interest rates rip through the U.S. financial system like a giant lawnmower blade?  Yes, the U.S. economy survived much higher interest rates in the past, but at that time there were not hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives hanging over our financial system like a Sword of Damocles.  This is something that I have been talking about for quite some time, and now a Mexican billionaire has come forward with a similar warning.  Hugo Salinas Price was the founder of the Elektra retail chain down in Mexico, and he is extremely concerned that rising interest rates could burst the derivatives bubble and cause “massive bankruptcies around the globe”.  Of course there are a whole lot of people out there that would be quite glad to see the “too big to fail” banks go bankrupt, but the truth is that if they go down our entire economy will go down with them.  Our situation is similar to a patient with a very advanced stage of cancer.  You can try to kill the cancer with drugs, but you will almost certainly kill the patient at the same time.  Well, that is essentially what our relationship with the big banks is like.  Our entire economic system is based on credit, and just like we saw back in 2008, if the big banks start failing credit freezes up and suddenly nobody can get any money for anything.  When the next great credit crunch comes, every important number in our economy will rapidly start getting much worse.

The big banks are going to play a starring role in the next financial crash just like they did in the last one.  Only this next crash may be quite a bit worse.  Just check out what billionaire Hugo Salinas Price told King World News recently…

I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies. I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis. This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).

There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates. The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off. What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.

What is going to be left after the dust settles is gold, and some people are going to have it and some people are not. Then the problem is going to be to hold on to what you’ve got because it’s not going to be a very pleasant world.

Right now, there are about 441 trillion dollars of interest rate derivatives sitting out there.  If interest rates stay about where they are right now and they don’t go much higher, we will be fine.  But if they start going much higher, all bets will be off and we could see financial carnage on a scale that we have never seen before.

And at the moment the big banks have got to behave themselves because the government is investigating allegations that they have been cheating pension funds and other investors out of millions of dollars by manipulating the trading of interest rate derivatives.  The following is from an article that the Telegraph posted on Friday…

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is probing 15 banks over allegations that they instructed brokers to carry out trades that would move ISDAfix, the leading benchmark rate for interest rate swaps.

Pension funds and companies who invest in interest rate derivatives often deal with banks to insure against big movements in the ISDAfix rate or to speculate on changes to interest rate swaps

ISDAfix is published each morning after banks submit bids for swaps via Icap, the inter-dealer broker, in a number of currencies. The CFTC has been investigating suggestions that the banks deliberately moved the rate in order to profit on these deals.

Given the hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives trades that occur annually, even the slightest manipulation can have a substantial effect. The CFTC, which started to investigate ISDAfix after last summer’s Libor scandal has now been handed emails and phone call recordings that show the rate was deliberately moved, according to Bloomberg.

Essentially they got their hands caught in the cookie jar and so they have got to play it straight (at least for now).

Meanwhile, it looks like the Fed may not be able to keep long-term interest rates down for much longer.

The Federal Reserve has been using quantitative easing to try to keep long-term interest rates low, but now some officials over at the Fed are becoming extremely alarmed about how bloated the Fed balance sheet has become.  For example, the following was recently written by the head of the Dallas Fed, Richard Fisher

This later program is referred to as quantitative easing, or QE, by the public and as large-scale asset purchases, or LSAPs, internally at the Fed. As a result of LSAPs conducted over three stages of QE, the Fed’s System Open Market Account now holds $2 trillion of Treasury securities and $1.3 trillion of agency and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Since last fall, when we initiated the third stage of QE, we have regularly been purchasing $45 billion a month of Treasuries and $40 billion a month in MBS, meanwhile reinvesting the proceeds from the paydowns of our mortgage-based investments. The result is that our balance sheet has ballooned to more than $3.5 trillion. That’s $3.5 trillion, or $11,300 for every man, woman and child residing in the United States.

Fisher has compared the current Fed balance sheet to a “Gordian Knot”, and he hopes that the Fed will be able to unwind this knot without creating “market havoc”…

The point is: We own a significant slice of these critical markets. This is, indeed, something of a Gordian Knot.

Those of you familiar with the Gordian legend know there were two versions to it: One holds that Alexander the Great simply dispatched with the problem by slicing the intractable knot in half with his sword; the other posits that Alexander pulled the knot out of its pole pin, exposed the two ends of the cord and proceeded to untie it. According to the myth, the oracles then divined that he would go on to conquer the world.

There is no Alexander to simply slice the complex knot that we have created with our rounds of QE. Instead, when the right time comes, we must carefully remove the program’s pole pin and gingerly unwind it so as not to prompt market havoc. For starters though, we need to stop building upon the knot. For this reason, I have advocated that we socialize the idea of the inevitability of our dialing back and eventually ending our LSAPs. In June, I argued for the Chairman to signal this possibility at his last press conference and at last week’s meeting suggested that we should gird our loins to make our first move this fall. We shall see if that recommendation obtains with the majority of the Committee.

But of course it should be obvious to everyone that the Fed is not going to be able to reduce the size of its balance sheet without causing huge distress in the financial markets.  A few weeks ago, just the suggestion that the Fed may eventually begin to slow down the pace of quantitative easing caused the markets to throw an epic temper tantrum.

Unfortunately, the Fed may not be able to keep control of long-term interest rates even if they continue quantitative easing indefinitely.  Over the past several weeks long-term interest rates have been rising steadily, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries crept a bit higher on Monday.

At this point, many on Wall Street are convinced that the bull market for bonds is over and that rates will eventually go much, much higher than they are right now no matter what the Fed does.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article

The Federal Reserve will lose control of interest rates as the “great rotation” out of bonds into equities takes off in full force, according to one market watcher, who sees U.S. 10-year Treasury yields hitting 5-6 percent in the next 18-24 months.

“It is our opinion that interest rates have begun their assent, that the Fed will eventually lose control of interest rates. The yield curve will first steepen and then will shift, moving rates significantly higher,” said Mike Crofton, President and CEO, Philadelphia Trust Company told CNBC on Wednesday.

If the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries does hit 6 percent, we are going to have a major disaster on our hands.

Hugo Salinas Price is exactly right – the derivatives bubble is the number one threat that our financial system is facing, and it could potentially bring down a whole bunch of our big banks.

But for the moment, Wall Street is still in a euphoric mood.  The Dow is near a record high and many investors are hoping that this rally will last for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on that happening.  The truth is that the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality.

Since March 2009, the size of the U.S. economy has grown by approximately $1.3 trillion, but stock market wealth has grown by an astounding $12 trillion.

And the stock market has just kept on rising even though GDP growth forecasts have been steadily falling.

It doesn’t make any sense.

But Obama, Bernanke and the wizards on Wall Street assure us that there is no end to the party in sight.

Believe them at your own peril.

The people at the controls are completely and totally clueless and we are rapidly careening toward disaster.

Perhaps we should do what one little town in Minnesota did and put a 4-year-old kid in charge.

That kid certainly could not be much worse than our current leadership, don’t you think?

The 441 TRILLION Dollar Interest Rate Derivatives Time Bomb

The Derivatives Time BombDo you want to know the primary reason why rapidly rising interest rates could take down the entire global financial system?  Most people might think that it would be because the U.S. government would have to pay much more interest on the national debt.  And yes, if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rose to just 6 percent (and it has actually been much higher in the past), the federal government would be paying out about a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.  But that isn’t it.  Nor does the primary reason have to do with the fact that rapidly rising interest rates would impose massive losses on bond investors.  At this point, it is being projected that if U.S. bond yields rise by an average of 3 percentage points, it will cause investors to lose a trillion dollars.  Yes, that is a 1 with 12 zeroes after it ($1,000,000,000,000).  But that is not the number one danger posed by rapidly rising interest rates either.  Rather, the number one reason why rapidly rising interest rates could cause the entire global financial system to crash is because there are more than 441 TRILLION dollars worth of interest rate derivatives sitting out there.  This number comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements – the central bank of central banks.  In other words, more than $441,000,000,000,000 has been bet on the movement of interest rates.  Normally these bets do not cause a major problem because rates tend to move very slowly and the system stays balanced.  But now rates are starting to skyrocket, and the sophisticated financial models used by derivatives traders do not account for this kind of movement.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the global financial system is potentially heading for massive amounts of trouble if interest rates continue to soar.

Today, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury bonds rocketed up to 2.66% before settling back to 2.55%.  The chart posted below shows how dramatically the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has moved in recent days…

10 Year Treasury Yield

Right now, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is about 30 percent above its 50 day moving average.  That is the most that it has been above its 50 day moving average in 50 years.

Like I mentioned above, we are moving into uncharted territory and this data doesn’t really fit into the models used by derivatives traders.

The yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries has been moving even more dramatically…

5 Year Treasury Yield

Last week, the yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries rose by an astounding 37 percent.  That was the largest increase in 50 years.

Once again, this is uncharted territory.

If rates continue to shoot up, there are going to be some financial institutions out there that are going to start losing absolutely massive amounts of money on interest rate derivative contracts.

So exactly what is an interest rate derivative?

The following is how Investopedia defines interest rate derivatives…

A financial instrument based on an underlying financial security whose value is affected by changes in interest rates. Interest-rate derivatives are hedges used by institutional investors such as banks to combat the changes in market interest rates. Individual investors are more likely to use interest-rate derivatives as a speculative tool – they hope to profit from their guesses about which direction market interest rates will move.

They can be very complicated, but I prefer to think of them in very simple terms.  Just imagine walking into a casino and placing a bet that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries will hit 2.75% in July.  If it does reach that level, you win.  If it doesn’t, you lose.  That is a very simplistic example, but I think that it is a helpful one.  At the heart of it, the 441 TRILLION dollar derivatives market is just a bunch of people making bets about which way interest rates will go.

And normally the betting stays very balanced and our financial system is not threatened.  The people that run this betting use models that are far more sophisticated than anything that Las Vegas uses.  But all models are based on human assumptions, and wild swings in interest rates could break their models and potentially start causing financial losses on a scale that our financial system has never seen before.

We are potentially talking about a financial collapse far worse than anything that we saw back in 2008.

Remember, the U.S. national debt is just now approaching 17 trillion dollars.  So when you are talking about 441 trillion dollars you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.

Meanwhile, China appears to be on the verge of another financial crisis as well.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

China is on the verge of a “Lehman” moment as its shadow banking system implodes. China had pumped roughly $1.6 trillion in new credit (that’s 21% of GDP) into its economy in the last two quarters… and China GDP growth is in fact slowing.

This is what a credit bubble bursting looks like: the pumping becomes more and more frantic with less and less returns.

And Chinese stocks just experienced their largest decline since 2009.  The second largest economy on earth is starting to have significant financial problems at the same time that our markets are starting to crumble.

Not good.

And don’t forget about Europe.  European stocks have had a very, very rough month so far

The narrow EuroStoxx 50 index is now at its lowest in over seven months (-5.4% year-to-date and -12.5% from its highs in May) and the broader EuroStoxx 600 is also flailing lower. The European bank stocks pushed down to their lowest in almost 10 months and are now in bear market territory – down 22.5% from their highs. Spain and Italy are now testing their lowest level in 9 months.

So are the central banks of the world going to swoop in and rescue the financial markets from the brink of disaster?

At this point it does not appear likely.

As I have written about previously, the Bank for International Settlements is the central bank for central banks, and it has a tremendous amount of influence over central bank policy all over the planet.

The other day, the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, Jaime Caruana, gave a speech entitled “Making the most of borrowed time“.  In that speech, he made it clear that the era of extraordinary central bank intervention was coming to an end.  The following is one short excerpt from that speech…

“Ours is a call for acting responsibly now to strengthen growth and avoid even costlier adjustment down the road. And it is a call for recognizing that returning to stability and prosperity is a shared responsibility. Monetary policy has done its part. Recovery now calls for a different policy mix – with more emphasis on strengthening economic flexibility and dynamism and stabilizing public finances.”

Monetary policy has done its part?

That sounds pretty firm.

And if you read the entire speech, you will see that Caruana makes it clear that he believes that it is time for the financial markets to stand on their own.

But will they be able to?

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. financial system is a massive Ponzi scheme that is on the verge of imploding.  Unprecedented intervention by the Federal Reserve has helped to prop it up for the last couple of years, and there is a lot of fear in the financial world about what is going to happen once that unprecedented intervention is gone.

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but one thing seems certain.  The last half of 2013 is shaping up to be very, very interesting.

The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets

When financial markets in the United States crash, so does the U.S. economy.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  The financial markets crashed, the credit markets froze up, and suddenly the economy went into cardiac arrest.  Well, there are very few things that could cause the financial markets to crash harder or farther than a derivatives panic.  Sadly, most Americans don’t even understand what derivatives are.  Unlike stocks and bonds, a derivative is not an investment in anything real.  Rather, a derivative is a legal bet on the future value or performance of something else.  Just like you can go to Las Vegas and bet on who will win the football games this weekend, bankers on Wall Street make trillions of dollars of bets about how interest rates will perform in the future and about what credit instruments are likely to default.  Wall Street has been transformed into a gigantic casino where people are betting on just about anything that you can imagine.  This works fine as long as there are not any wild swings in the economy and risk is managed with strict discipline, but as we have seen, there have been times when derivatives have caused massive problems in recent years.  For example, do you know why the largest insurance company in the world, AIG, crashed back in 2008 and required a government bailout?  It was because of derivatives.  Bad derivatives trades also caused the failure of MF Global, and the 6 billion dollar loss that JPMorgan Chase recently suffered because of derivatives made headlines all over the globe.  But all of those incidents were just warm up acts for the coming derivatives panic that will destroy global financial markets.  The largest casino in the history of the world is going to go “bust” and the economic fallout from the financial crash that will happen as a result will be absolutely horrific.

There is a reason why Warren Buffett once referred to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  Nobody really knows the total value of all the derivatives that are floating around out there, but estimates place the notional value of the global derivatives market anywhere from 600 trillion dollars all the way up to 1.5 quadrillion dollars.

Keep in mind that global GDP is somewhere around 70 trillion dollars for an entire year.  So we are talking about an amount of money that is absolutely mind blowing.

So who is buying and selling all of these derivatives?

Well, would it surprise you to learn that it is mostly the biggest banks?

According to the federal government, four very large U.S. banks “represent 93% of the total banking industry notional amounts and 81% of industry net current credit exposure.”

These four banks have an overwhelming share of the derivatives market in the United States.  You might not be very fond of “the too big to fail banks“, but keep in mind that if a derivatives crisis were to cause them to crash and burn it would almost certainly cause the entire U.S. economy to crash and burn.  Just remember what we saw back in 2008.  What is coming is going to be even worse.

It would have been really nice if we had not allowed these banks to get so large and if we had not allowed them to make trillions of dollars of reckless bets.  But we stood aside and let it happen.  Now these banks are so important to our economic system that their destruction would also destroy the U.S. economy.  It is kind of like when cancer becomes so advanced that killing the cancer would also kill the patient.  That is essentially the situation that we are facing with these banks.

It would be hard to overstate the recklessness of these banks.  The numbers that you are about to see are absolutely jaw-dropping.  According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives.  Just check out how exposed they are…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.

To get a better idea of the massive amounts of money that we are talking about, just check out this excellent infographic.

How in the world could we let this happen?

And what is our financial system going to look like when this pyramid of risk comes falling down?

Our politicians put in a few new rules for derivatives, but as usual they only made things even worse.

According to Nasdaq.com, beginning next year new regulations will require derivatives traders to put up trillions of dollars to satisfy new margin requirements.

Swaps that will be allowed to remain outside clearinghouses when new rules take effect in 2013 will require traders to post $1.7 trillion to $10.2 trillion in margin, according to a report by an industry group.

The analysis from the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, using data sent in anonymously by banks, says the trillions of dollars in cash or securities will be needed in the form of so-called “initial margin.” Margin is the collateral that traders need to put up to back their positions, and initial margin is money backing trades on day one, as opposed to variation margin posted over the life of a trade as it fluctuates in value.

So where in the world will all of this money come from?

Total U.S. GDP was just a shade over 15 trillion dollars last year.

Could these rules cause a sudden mass exodus that would destabilize the marketplace?

Let’s hope not.

But things are definitely changing.  According to Reuters, some of the big banks are actually urging their clients to avoid new U.S. rules by funneling trades through the overseas divisions of their banks…

Wall Street banks are looking to help offshore clients sidestep new U.S. rules designed to safeguard the world’s $640 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market, taking advantage of an exemption that risks undermining U.S. regulators’ efforts.

U.S. banks such as Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) have been explaining to their foreign customers that they can for now avoid the new rules, due to take effect next month, by routing trades via the banks’ overseas units, according to industry sources and presentation materials obtained by Reuters.

Unfortunately, no matter how banks respond to the new rules, it isn’t going to prevent the coming derivatives panic.  At some point the music is going to stop and some big financial players are going to be completely and totally exposed.

When that happens, it might not be just the big banks that lose money.  Just take a look at what happened with MF Global.

MF Global has confessed that it “diverted money” from customer accounts that were supposed to be segregated.  A lot of customers may never get back any of the money that they invested with those crooks.  The following comes from a Huffington Post article about the MF Global debacle, and it might just be a preview of what other investors will go through in the future when a derivatives crash destroys the firms that they had their money parked with…

Last week when customers asked for excess cash from their accounts, MF Global stalled. According to a commodity fund manager I spoke with, MF Global’s first stall tactic was to claim it lost wire transfer instructions. Then instead of sending an overnight check, it sent the money snail mail, including checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The checks bounced. After the checks bounced, the amounts were still debited from customer accounts and no one at MF Global could or would reverse the check entries. The manager has had to intervene to get MF Global to correct this.

How would you respond if your investment account suddenly went to “zero” because the firm you were investing with “diverted” customer funds for company use and now you have no way of recovering your money?

Keep an eye on the large Wall Street banks.  In a previous article, I quoted a New York Times article entitled “A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives” which described how these banks dominate the trading of derivatives…

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

According to the article, the following large banks are represented at these meetings: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup.

When the casino finally goes “bust”, you will know who to blame.

Without a doubt, a derivatives panic is coming.

It will cause the financial markets to crash.

Several of the “too big to fail” banks will likely crash and burn and require bailouts.

As a result of all this, credit markets will become paralyzed by fear and freeze up.

Once again, we will see the U.S. economy go into cardiac arrest, only this time it will not be so easy to fix.

Do you agree with this analysis, or do you find it overly pessimistic?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

The Coming Derivatives Crisis That Could Destroy The Entire Global Financial System

Most people have no idea that Wall Street has become a gigantic financial casino.  The big Wall Street banks are making tens of billions of dollars a year in the derivatives market, and nobody in the financial community wants the party to end.  The word “derivatives” sounds complicated and technical, but understanding them is really not that hard.  A derivative is essentially a fancy way of saying that a bet has been made.  Originally, these bets were designed to hedge risk, but today the derivatives market has mushroomed into a mountain of speculation unlike anything the world has ever seen before.  Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market go from $600 trillion all the way up to $1.5 quadrillion.  Keep in mind that the GDP of the entire world is only somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 trillion.  The danger to the global financial system posed by derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  For now, the financial powers that be are trying to keep the casino rolling, but it is inevitable that at some point this entire mess is going to come crashing down.  When it does, we are going to be facing a derivatives crisis that really could destroy the entire global financial system.

Most people don’t talk much about derivatives because they simply do not understand them.

Perhaps a couple of definitions would be helpful.

The following is how a recent Bloomberg article defined derivatives….

Derivatives are financial instruments used to hedge risks or for speculation. They’re derived from stocks, bonds, loans, currencies and commodities, or linked to specific events such as changes in the weather or interest rates.

The key word there is “speculation”.  Today the folks down on Wall Street are speculating on just about anything that you can imagine.

The following is how Investopedia defines derivatives….

A security whose price is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is merely a contract between two or more parties. Its value is determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset. The most common underlying assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates and market indexes. Most derivatives are characterized by high leverage.

A derivative has no underlying value of its own.  A derivative is essentially a side bet.  Usually these side bets are highly leveraged.

At this point, making side bets has totally gotten out of control in the financial world.  Side bets are being made on just about anything you can possibly imagine, and the major Wall Street banks are making a ton of money from it.  This system is almost entirely unregulated and it is totally dominated by the big international banks.

Over the past couple of decades, the derivatives market has multiplied in size.  Everything is going to be fine as long as the system stays in balance.  But once it gets out of balance we could witness a string of financial crashes that no government on earth will be able to fix.

The amount of money that we are talking about is absolutely staggering.  Graham Summers of Phoenix Capital Research estimates that the notional value of the global derivatives market is $1.4 quadrillion, and in an article for Seeking Alpha he tried to put that number into perspective….

If you add up the value of every stock on the planet, the entire market capitalization would be about $36 trillion. If you do the same process for bonds, you’d get a market capitalization of roughly $72 trillion.

The notional value of the derivative market is roughly $1.4 QUADRILLION.

I realize that number sounds like something out of Looney tunes, so I’ll try to put it into perspective.

$1.4 Quadrillion is roughly:

-40 TIMES THE WORLD’S STOCK MARKET.

-10 TIMES the value of EVERY STOCK & EVERY BOND ON THE PLANET.

-23 TIMES WORLD GDP.

It is hard to fathom how much money a quadrillion is.

If you started counting right now at one dollar per second, it would take 32 million years to count to one quadrillion dollars.

Yes, the boys and girls down on Wall Street have gotten completely and totally out of control.

In an excellent article that he did on derivatives, Webster Tarpley described the pivotal role that derivatives now play in the global financial system….

Far from being some arcane or marginal activity, financial derivatives have come to represent the principal business of the financier oligarchy in Wall Street, the City of London, Frankfurt, and other money centers. A concerted effort has been made by politicians and the news media to hide and camouflage the central role played by derivative speculation in the economic disasters of recent years. Journalists and public relations types have done everything possible to avoid even mentioning derivatives, coining phrases like “toxic assets,” “exotic instruments,” and – most notably – “troubled assets,” as in Troubled Assets Relief Program or TARP, aka the monstrous $800 billion bailout of Wall Street speculators which was enacted in October 2008 with the support of Bush, Henry Paulson, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Obama Democrats.

Most people do not realize this, but derivatives were at the center of the financial crisis of 2008.

They will almost certainly be at the center of the next financial crisis as well.

For many, alarm bells went off the other day when it was revealed that Bank of America has moved a big chunk of derivatives from its failing Merrill Lynch investment banking unit to its depository arm.

So what does that mean?

An article posted on The Daily Bail the other day explained that it means that U.S. taxpayers could end up holding the bag….

This means that the investment bank’s European derivatives exposure is now backstopped by U.S. taxpayers. Bank of America didn’t get regulatory approval to do this, they just did it at the request of frightened counterparties. Now the Fed and the FDIC are fighting as to whether this was sound. The Fed wants to “give relief” to the bank holding company, which is under heavy pressure.

This is a direct transfer of risk to the taxpayer done by the bank without approval by regulators and without public input.

So did you hear about this on the news?

Probably not.

Today, the notional value of all the derivatives held by Bank of America comes to approximately $75 trillion.

JPMorgan Chase is holding derivatives with a notional value of about $79 trillion.

It is hard to even conceive of such figures.

Right now, the banks with the most exposure to derivatives are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and HSBC Bank USA.

Morgan Stanley also has tremendous exposure to derivatives.

You may have noticed that these are some of the “too big to fail” banks.

The biggest U.S. banks continue to grow and they continue to get even more power.

Back in 2002, the top 10 U.S. banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 U.S. banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.

These banks have gotten so big and so powerful that if they collapsed our entire financial system would implode.

You would have thought that we would have learned our lesson back in 2008 and would have done something about this, but instead we have allowed the “too big to bail” banks to become bigger than ever.

And they pretty much do whatever they want.

A while back, the New York Times published an article entitled “A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives“.  That article exposed the steel-fisted control that the “too big to fail” banks exert over the trading of derivatives.  Just consider the following excerpt from the article….

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

So what institutions are represented at these meetings?

Well, according to the New York Times, the following banks are involved: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup.

Why do those same five names seem to keep popping up time after time?

Sadly, these five banks keep pouring money into the campaigns of politicians that supported the bailouts in 2008 and that they know will bail them out again when the next financial crisis strikes.

Those that defend the wild derivatives trading that is going on today claim that Wall Street has accounted for all of the risks and they assume that the issuing banks will always be able to cover all of the derivative contracts that they write.

But that is a faulty assumption.  Just look at AIG back in 2008.  When the housing market collapsed AIG was on the wrong end of a massive number of derivative contracts and it would have gone “bust” without gigantic bailouts from the federal government.  If the bailouts of AIG had not happened, Goldman Sachs and a whole lot of other people would have been left standing there with a whole bunch of worthless paper.

It is inevitable that the same thing is going to happen again.  Except next time it may be on a much grander scale.

When “the house” goes “bust”, everybody loses.  The governments of the world could step in and try to bail everyone out, but the reality is that when the derivatives market comes totally crashing down there won’t be any government on earth with enough money to put it back together again.

A horrible derivatives crisis is coming.

It is only a matter of time.

Stay alert for any mention of the word “derivatives” or the term “derivatives crisis” in the news.  When the derivatives crisis arrives, things will start falling apart very rapidly.

 

Derivatives: The Quadrillion Dollar Financial Casino Completely Dominated By The Big International Banks

If you took an opinion poll and asked Americans what they considered the biggest threat to the world economy to be, how many of them do you think would give “derivatives” as an answer?  But the truth is that derivatives were at the heart of the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, and whenever the next financial crisis happens derivatives will undoubtedly play a huge role once again.  So exactly what are “derivatives”?  Well, derivatives are basically financial instruments whose value depends upon or is derived from the price of something else.  A derivative has no underlying value of its own.  It is essentially a side bet.  Today, the world financial system has been turned into a giant casino where bets are made on just about anything you can possibly imagine, and the major Wall Street banks make a ton of money from it.  The system is largely unregulated (the new “Wall Street reform” law will only change this slightly) and it is totally dominated by the big international banks.

Nobody knows for certain how large the worldwide derivatives market is, but most estimates usually put the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market somewhere over a quadrillion dollars.  If that is accurate, that means that the worldwide derivatives market is 20 times larger than the GDP of the entire world.  It is hard to even conceive of 1,000,000,000,000,000 dollars.

Counting at one dollar per second, it would take you 32 million years to count to one quadrillion.

So who controls this unbelievably gigantic financial casino?

Would it surprise you to learn that it is the big international banks that control it?

The New York Times has just published an article entitled “A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives“.  Shockingly, the most important newspaper in the United States has exposed the steel-fisted control that the big Wall Street banks exert over the trading of derivatives.  Just consider the following excerpt from the article….

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

Does that sound shady or what?

In fact, it wouldn’t be stretching things to say that these meetings sound very much like a “conspiracy”.

The New York Times even named several of the Wall Street banks involved: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup.

Why does it seem like all financial roads eventually lead back to these monolithic financial institutions?

The highly touted “Wall Street reform” law that was recently passed will implement some very small changes in how derivatives are traded, but these giant Wall Street banks are pushing back hard against even those very small changes as the article in The New York Times noted….

“The revenue these dealers make on derivatives is very large and so the incentive they have to protect those revenues is extremely large,” said Darrell Duffie, a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, who studied the derivatives market earlier this year with Federal Reserve researchers. “It will be hard for the dealers to keep their market share if everybody who can prove their creditworthiness is allowed into the clearinghouses. So they are making arguments that others shouldn’t be allowed in.”

So why should we be so concerned about all of this?

Well, because the truth is that derivatives could end up crashing the entire global financial system.

In fact, the danger that we face from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once referred to them as “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

In a previous article, I described how derivatives played a central role in almost collapsing insurance giant AIG during the recent financial crisis….

Most Americans don’t realize it, but derivatives played a major role in the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

Do you remember how AIG was constantly in the news for a while there?

Well, they weren’t in financial trouble because they had written a bunch of bad insurance policies.

What had happened is that a subsidiary of AIG had lost more than $18 billion on Credit Default Swaps (derivatives) it had written, and additional losses from derivatives were on the way which could have caused the complete collapse of the insurance giant.

So the U.S. government stepped in and bailed them out – all at U.S. taxpayer expense of course.

As the recent debate over Wall Street reform demonstrated, the sad reality is that the U.S. Congress is never going to step in and seriously regulate derivatives.

That means that a quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble is going to perpetually hang over the U.S. economy until the day that it inevitably bursts.

Once it does, there will not be enough money in the entire world to fix it.

Meanwhile, the big international banks will continue to run the largest casino that the world has ever seen.  Trillions of dollars will continue to spin around at an increasingly dizzying pace until the day when a disruption to the global economy comes along that is serious enough to crash the entire thing.

The worldwide derivatives market is based primarily on credit and it is approximately ten times larger than it was back in the late 90s.  There has never been anything quite like it in the history of the world.

So what in the world is going to happen when this thing implodes?  Are U.S. taxpayers going to be expected to pick up the pieces once again?  Is the Federal Reserve just going to zap tens of trillions or hundreds of trillions of dollars into existence to bail everyone out?

If you want one sign to watch for that will indicate when an economic collapse is really starting to happen, then watch the derivatives market.  When derivatives implode it will be time to duck and cover.  A really bad derivatives crash would essentially be similar to dropping a nuke on the entire global financial system.  Let us hope that it does not happen any time soon, but let us also be ready for when it does.

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