Update on the Fed’s $123 billion in emergency lending to AIG.
For those intrigued by my credit default swap post, there is a good article in yesterday’s New York Times. The article asks, “where are the funds being lent to AIG by the Fed going within the company”
The American International Group is rapidly running through $123 billion in emergency lending provided by the Federal Reserve, raising questions about how a company claiming to be solvent in September could have developed such a big hole by October. Some analysts say at least part of the shortfall must have been there all along, hidden by irregular accounting.
The article goes on to describe that accounting for its derivatives trades, largely the selling of credit default swap protection, had been severely lacking oversight. As more attention was drawn to the activities of AIG’s Financial Products group, an alarming picture began to emerge.
Credit Default Swaps – A Primer
A credit default swap is a type of credit derivative. Credit derivatives “derive” their value from an underlying credit instrument; generally the bonds of sovereign nations or the bonds of a corporate entity. In recent years, credit derivatives have been created that are based obligations rather than entities; one common reference obligation are asset backed securities based on home equity loans.
A credit default swap is a contract that allows one to take or reduce credit exposure. The contract is between the two parties and does not directly involve the underlying reference entity. A credit default swap is essentially an insurance policy where one entity pays a premium to a second entity to take on the risk of a loss.
Let’s look at a fictitious example.
Yesterday I wrote about Professor Nouriel Roubini’s predictions for continued stress in the U.S. economy. Roubini is predicting a prolonged recession lasting two years or longer. While I was writing, Roubini was in London predicting wide-spread market panic that would require a suspension of trading and temporary closure of the markets. (Video) and (Article)
Panic, check; suspension of trading, sort of; closure of markets, let’s hope not.
This morning trading in the S&P 500 futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange triggered “circuit-breaker” rules designed to curb the downdraft of futures trading. According to marketwatch.com:
The CME limits the S&P 500 futures to a drop of a 60 points and the Nasdaq 100 futures to a drop of 85 points during electronic action.
They can still be traded electronically, only they can’t trade below those levels. Those contracts can fall more once the pits open at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. See external link on CME rules.
Keep your fingers crossed at 9:30 a.m. And someone, please, get Nouriel Roubini a pair of rose-colored glasses before he issues his next prediction.
As an antidote to the gloom…
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You could be forgiven if you don’t know where the candidates stand on immigration. With the financial market meltdown in full swing and a full-blown media circus surrounding $150,000 shopping sprees and fair-weather fans, the press hasn’t had much time to talk about immigration. The Brookings Institution has published this fact sheet comparing the candidate’s plans that is worth reading.
So where do McCain and Obama stand on important features of immigration reform? As it turns out, despite what the ads would have you believe, not too far apart.
What was the top marginal federal tax rate for individuals in 1955?
An Examination of the Recent History of the Effective Tax Rates of the 400 Highest Income Filers
Part II of a multipart series
Read Part I
Warren Buffett has made a fortune through the shrewd allocation of capital. So far, no one has taken Warren’s million dollar challenge to his fellow dwellers in the penthouse of American wealth. Perhaps that’s because with a performance like this, it hasn’t paid to bet against Buffett. I am sure Buffett knew his proposed bet was likely to be a winning one.
I take a closer look at the data behind Warren Buffett’s challenge in the second installment of this series examining the progressiveness of the federal income tax.
Read on to learn Buffett’s edge and more…