Monday, October 6, 2008

Lehman Defaulted, Now Let's Settle those $400 Billion in Credit Default Swaps

From FT Alphaville:
...Why the breakdown?

Panmure Gordon’s Sandy Chen has this to say in a note out today:

We think one of the key drivers has been the tremendous potential demand for cash from counterparties, related to the CDS (credit default swap) payouts on the recent major credit events. To recap, the FNM/FRE CDS settlement auction happens today (6 October), the LEH auction on 10 October (Friday), and WaMu on 23 October. In these settlement auctions, thereference price for the underlying bonds will be set, thus determining the payout levels.

… We think that the CDS payouts related to these credit events will put tremendous strains on the financial counterparties that had written those CDS. We broadly estimate there could be US$50bn of payouts related to FNM/FRE CDS, and US$400bn of payouts related to LEH CDS. We think it highly likely that many counterparties, particularly hedge funds, will not be able to raise the cash to meet their ends of these bargains.

What will this mean? More failures amongst hedge funds, insurance companies and banks, and - given that CDS are largely OTC, meaning that there is limited visibility beyond the immediate counterparty - a lack of trust that translates into money markets remaining effectively shut. And whichever measure of financial stress/lack of liquidity is used - LIBOR-BaseRate gap, TED spread etc - it will remain at elevated levels as long as markets are worried about possible failures of counterparties (or counterparties’ counterparties)....