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Global Financial Meltdown Coming? Clear Signs That The Great Derivatives Crisis Has Now Begun

Global Financial Meltdown - Public DomainWarren Buffett once referred to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction“, and it was inevitable that they would begin to wreak havoc on our financial system at some point.  While things may seem somewhat calm on Wall Street at the moment, the truth is that a great deal of trouble is bubbling just under the surface.  As you will see below, something happened in mid-September that required an unprecedented 405 billion dollar surge of Treasury collateral into the repo market.  I know – that sounds very complicated, so I will try to break it down more simply for you.  It appears that some very large institutions have started to get into a significant amount of trouble because of all the reckless betting that they have been doing.  This is something that I have warned would happen over and over again.  In fact, I have written about it so much that my regular readers are probably sick of hearing about it.  But this is what is going to cause the meltdown of our financial system.

Many out there get upset when I compare derivatives trading to gambling, and perhaps it would be more accurate to describe most derivatives as a form of insurance.  The big financial institutions assure us that they have passed off most of the risk on these contracts to others and so there is no reason to worry according to them.

Well, personally I don’t buy their explanations, and a lot of others don’t either.  On a very basic, primitive level, derivatives trading is gambling.  This is a point that Jeff Nielson made very eloquently in a piece that he recently published

No one “understands” derivatives. How many times have readers heard that thought expressed (please round-off to the nearest thousand)? Why does no one understand derivatives? For many; the answer to that question is that they have simply been thinking too hard. For others; the answer is that they don’t “think” at all.

Derivatives are bets. This is not a metaphor, or analogy, or generalization. Derivatives are bets. Period. That’s all they ever were. That’s all they ever can be.

One very large financial institution that appears to be in serious trouble with these financial weapons of mass destruction is Glencore.  At one time Glencore was considered to be the 10th largest company on the entire planet, but now it appears to be coming apart at the seams, and a great deal of their trouble seems to be tied to derivatives.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Of particular concern, they said, was Glencore’s use of financial instruments such as derivatives to hedge its trading of physical goods against price swings. The company had $9.8 billion in gross derivatives in June 2015, down from $19 billion in such positions at the end of 2014, causing investors to query the company about the swing.

Glencore told investors the number went down so drastically because of changes in market volatility this year, according to people briefed by Glencore. When prices vary significantly, it can increase the value of hedging positions.

Last year, there were extreme price moves, particularly in the crude-oil market, which slid from about $114 a barrel in June to less than $60 a barrel by the end of December.

That response wasn’t satisfying, said Michael Leithead, a bond fund portfolio manager at EFG Asset Management, which managed $12 billion as of the end of March and has invested in Glencore’s debt.

According to Bank of America, the global financial system has about 100 billion dollars of exposure overall to Glencore.  So if Glencore goes bankrupt that is going to be a major event.  At this point, Glencore is probably the most likely candidate to be “the next Lehman Brothers”.

And it isn’t just Glencore that is in trouble.  Other financial giants such as Trafigura are in deep distress as well.  Collectively, the global financial system has approximately half a trillion dollars of exposure to these firms…

Worse, since it is not just Glencore that the banks are exposed to but very likely the rest of the commodity trading space, their gross exposure blows up to a simply stunning number:

For the banks, of course, Glencore may not be their only exposure in the commodity trading space. We consider that other vehicles such as Trafigura, Vitol and Gunvor may feature on bank balance sheets as well ($100 bn x 4?)

Call it half a trillion dollars in very highly levered exposure to commodities: an asset class that has been crushed in the past year.

The mainstream media is not talking much about any of this yet, and that is probably a good thing.  But behind the scenes, unprecedented moves are already taking place.

When I came across the information that I am about to share with you, I was absolutely stunned.  It comes from Investment Research Dynamics, and it shows very clearly that everything is not “okay” in the financial world…

Something occurred in the banking system in September that required a massive reverse repo operation in order to force the largest ever Treasury collateral injection into the repo market.   Ordinarily the Fed might engage in routine reverse repos as a means of managing the Fed funds rate.   However, as you can see from the graph below, there have been sudden spikes up in the amount of reverse repos that tend to correspond the some kind of crisis – the obvious one being the de facto collapse of the financial system in 2008:

Reverse Repo Operation

What in the world could possibly cause a spike of that magnitude?

Well, that same article that I just quoted links the troubles at Glencore with this unprecedented intervention…

What’s even more interesting is that the spike-up in reverse repos occurred at the same time – September 16 – that the stock market embarked on an 8-day cliff dive, with the S&P 500 falling 6% in that time period.  You’ll note that this is around the same time that a crash in Glencore stock and bonds began.   It has been suggested by analysts that a default on Glencore credit derivatives either by Glencore or by financial entities using derivatives to bet against that event would be analogous to the “Lehman moment” that triggered the 2008 collapse.

The blame on the general stock market plunge was cast on the Fed’s inability to raise interest rates.  However that seems to be nothing more than a clever cover story for something much more catastrophic which began to develop out sight in the general liquidity functions of the global banking system.

Back in 2008, Lehman Brothers was not “perfectly fine” one day and then suddenly collapsed the next.  There were problems brewing under the surface well in advance.

Well, the same thing is happening now at banking giants such as Deutsche Bank, and at commodity trading firms such as Glencore, Trafigura and The Noble Group.

And of course a lot of smaller fish are starting to implode as well.  I found this example posted on Business Insider earlier today

On September 11, Spruce Alpha, a small hedge fund which is part of a bigger investment group, sent a short report to investors.

The letter said that the $80 million fund had lost 48% in a month, according the performance report seen by Business Insider.

There was no commentary included in the note. No explanation. Just cold hard numbers.

Wow – how do you possibly lose 48 percent in a single month?

It would be hard to do that even if you were actually trying to lose money on purpose.

Sadly, this kind of scenario is going to be repeated over and over as we get even deeper into this crisis.

Meanwhile, our “leaders” continue to tell us that there is nothing to worry about.  For example, just consider what former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is saying

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’t see any bubbles forming in global markets right right now.

But he doesn’t think you should take his word for it.

And even if you did, that isn’t the right question to ask anyway.

Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event on Wednesday morning, Bernanke said, “I don’t see any obvious major mispricings. Nothing that looks like the housing bubble before the crisis, for example. But you shouldn’t trust me.”

I certainly agree with that last sentence.  Bernanke was the one telling us that there was not going to be a recession back in 2008 even after one had already started.  He was clueless back then and he is clueless today.

Most of our “leaders” either don’t understand what is happening or they are not willing to tell us.

So that means that we have to try to figure things out for ourselves the best that we can.  And right now there are signs all around us that another 2008-style crisis has begun.

Personally, I am hoping that there will be a lot more days like today when the markets were relatively quiet and not much major news happened around the world.

Unfortunately for all of us, these days of relative peace and tranquility are about to come to a very abrupt end.

When The Derivatives Market Crashes (And It Will) U.S. Taxpayers Will Be On The Hook

Warren Buffett once said that derivatives are “financial weapons of mass destruction”, and that statement is more true today than it ever has been before.  Recently, JP Morgan made national headlines when it announced that it was going to take a 2 billion dollar loss from derivatives trades gone bad.  Well, it turns out that JP Morgan did not tell us the whole truth.  As you will see later in this article, most analysts are estimating that the losses will eventually be far larger than 2 billion dollars.  But no matter how bad things get for JP Morgan, it will not be allowed to fail.  JP Morgan is the largest bank in the United States, so it is essentially the “granddaddy” of the too big to fail banks.  If JP Morgan gets to the point where it is about to collapse, the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve will rush in to save it.  Because of this “security blanket”, banks such as JP Morgan feel free to take outrageous risks.  Today, JP Morgan has more exposure to derivatives than anyone else in the world.  If they win, they win big.  If they lose, U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook.  Not only that, but thanks to Dodd-Frank, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for bailing out the major derivatives clearinghouses if there is ever a major derivatives crisis.  So when the derivatives market crashes (and it will) you and I will be left holding a gigantic bill.

Derivatives almost caused the complete collapse of insurance giant AIG back in 2008.  But instead of learning our lessons, the derivatives bubble has gotten even larger since that time.

A Bloomberg article that was published last year contained a great quote from Mark Mobius about derivatives….

Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Asset Management’s emerging markets group, said another financial crisis is inevitable because the causes of the previous one haven’t been resolved.

“There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner because we haven’t solved any of the things that caused the previous crisis,” Mobius said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo today in response to a question about price swings. “Are the derivatives regulated? No. Are you still getting growth in derivatives? Yes.”

Never in the history of the world have we ever seen anything like this derivatives bubble.

But instead of getting it under control, we just allowed it to get bigger and bigger and bigger.

Now JP Morgan is in quite a bit of trouble.  A recent Daily Finance article summarized how JP Morgan got into this mess….

Bruno Iksil, a trader working in the bank’s London office, placed a massive bet in the derivatives market. Derivatives “derive” their value from the value of an underlying asset, like stocks, bonds, currencies, or a market index. The specific type of derivative used in Iksil’s bet was a credit default swap index, known as “CDX.NA.IG.9.”

CDX.NA.IG.9 tracks a basket of corporate bonds. Iksil’s positions on the index were so big (one report put it at $100 billion) that they were moving the market and interfering with other traders’ positions. These annoyed traders — hedge-fund managers — dubbed Iksil “the London Whale” for his outsize bets.

So if the real number isn’t 2 billion dollars, how much will JP Morgan eventually lose?

Morgan Stanley says that the losses could eventually reach 5 billion dollars.

The Independent is reporting that the losses could eventually reach 7 billion dollars.

One author featured on Zero Hedge suggested that the losses could ultimately reach 20 billion dollars….

Simple: because it knew with 100% certainty that if things turn out very, very badly, that the taxpayer, via the Fed, would come to its rescue. Luckily, things turned out only 80% bad. Although it is not over yet: if credit spreads soar, assuming at $200 million DV01, and a 100 bps move, JPM could suffer a $20 billion loss when all is said and done. But hey: at least “net” is not “gross” and we know, just know, that the SEC will get involved and make sure something like this never happens again.

The truth is that nobody really knows.  Everybody agrees that the losses will likely far exceed 2 billion dollars, but the real extent of the crisis will not be known until the trades play out.

According to the Huffington Post, JP Morgan recently sold 25 billion dollars of profitable securities to raise some cash.  The profit on the sale of those securities will be somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars.

A billion dollars will help, but it will not be nearly enough.

Many are interpreting this move as a sign of panic by JP Morgan.

Meanwhile, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon continues to do quite well.  In fact, his 23 million dollar pay package was recently approved by shareholders at an annual meeting.

Wouldn’t you like to do your job badly and still make 23 million dollars?

Right now, JP Morgan is essentially in a “staring contest” with those on the other side of the derivatives trades that went bad.  This “staring contest” was described in a recent CNN article….

It’s clear from public data filed with The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation that JPMorgan Chase hasn’t sold any of its positions yet. The DTCC tracks trading activity and sizes of positions on the IG9 and other indexes, and there haven’t been any big moves since last week.

“Whatever the size was, it’s clearly not something that you can call one or two dealers and sell,” said Garth Friesen, a co-chief investment officer at AVM, a derivatives hedge fund that’s not involved in these trades.

As soon as it becomes clear that JPMorgan Chase is unwinding its position, it will be obvious to players on every major trading desk. Hedge funds will immediately start piling into that index and buying protection, driving up the bank’s losses.

Until then, it won’t cost the hedge funds much to sit and wait.

JP Morgan is desperately hoping that the markets move in their favor.

If the markets move against JP Morgan in a big way it could potentially be absolutely catastrophic for the biggest bank in America.

An excerpt from an email that Steve Quayle recently received from an anonymous international banking source contained some chilling analysis of the situation….

The derivative market that JPM plays in is the CDX.NA.IG.9, when factions within their London office (London Whale) made overly leveraged swaps, hedge funds smelled blood and so did a few banks. You see any moves that JPM does here on out exposes their weakness further. Which they can not afford any more exposure thus they are not buying back any more shares which is the equivalent of cutting an artery in a pool full of sharks. The strategy they are taking right now is to sit through the storm and ride it out as they can do nothing else for any action will make them even more vulnerable. They can not absorb hits in both JPM SLV and CDX.NA.IG.9. Inactivity is not something they want to do it is something they have to do. There is no other choice for them.

So what will happen if JP Morgan loses too much money?

Well, it will beg the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve for money and the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve will comply.

There is no way that they are going to let the largest bank in America fail.

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, Dodd-Frank has put U.S. taxpayers on the hook for future bailouts of derivatives clearinghouses.  This was detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal article….

Little noticed is that on Tuesday Team Obama took its first formal steps toward putting taxpayers behind Wall Street derivatives trading — not behind banks that might make mistakes in derivatives markets, but behind the trading itself. Yes, the same crew that rails against the dangers of derivatives is quietly positioning these financial instruments directly above the taxpayer safety net.

One of the things that Dodd-Frank does is that it gives the Federal Reserve the power to provide “discount and borrowing privileges” to derivatives clearinghouses in the event of a major derivatives crisis.

This is what our politicians love to do.

They love to have the U.S. taxpayer guarantee everything.

Our politicians look at us as one giant insurance policy.

Apparently they believe that if anything in the financial world goes wrong that U.S. taxpayers should be the ones to clean up the mess.

But will we really have enough money to bail everyone out when the derivatives market crashes?

Today, the 9 largest banks in the United States have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

That is approximately 3 times the size of the entire global economy.

The U.S. government is already nearly 16 trillion dollars in debt.

How in the world can we afford to keep bailing out the huge messes that Wall Street makes?

Sadly, most Americans have no idea how vulnerable our financial system really is.

It is a poorly constructed house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.

If you still have faith in our financial system you are being quite foolish and you will soon be bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

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