Posts Tagged ‘John Carney’

CDS And A U.S. Default: What’s The Point?

CDS And A U.S. Default: What’s The Point?

Courtesy of Tom Lindmark at But Then What

John Carney has a really smart post over at Clusterstock regarding the pricing of credit default swaps for Campbell Soup, JPMorgan and the US government. In case you haven’t been following all of this, the cost to insure credit risk on Campbell Soup and this country are essentially the same while the cost to insure JPMorgan risk is approximately three times as much.

Bloomberg makes an argument that this makes no sense since Morgan is essentially a GSE. In the event of failure, strike that word failure, in the event of a problem with Morgan we can all count on the government coming once more to the barricades. True, but as Carney points out this misses some important elements of risk:

Let’s run through some risks that Reilly seems to be overlooking when it comes to JP Morgan’s debt.

We know that the government isn’t going to let JP Morgan go bankrupt. But we definitely do not know what form future bailouts will take. Maybe creditors will be protected in a future bailout. Maybe they won’t. Keep in mind that in the recent bailouts of the auto sector forced bondholders to take deep haircuts.

We also know that the failure of JP Morgan would almost certainly mean that the financial system was in great distress. In that case, anyone who sold insurance on JP Morgan would likewise probably be distressed, making paying off the insurance more costly. It seems what’s happening here is that sellers of swaps are smartly taking into account this risk.

That kind of risk doesn’t apply to isolated failures due to corruption or embezzling. If Campbell’s went down, the credit markets wouldn’t suddenly freeze up. Those who sold the credit default swaps wouldn’t necessarily have trouble getting the liquidity they need to fund the obligations.

Overlooking these kinds of risks is a problem for Reilly’s argument. It’s hard enough to establish you know how to price risk better than the market. And it’s pretty much impossible when you over look important risks.

I particularly like the way John gets to the real point about letting the markets sort the risks out, but I still don’t quite understand the concept of writing CDS on US government debt.

It seems to me this is a pointless…
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