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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.
In the wake of the current financial markets meltdown – and the meltdown of his own campaign – John McCain unveiled a set of initiatives aimed at stimulating the economy. The centerpiece of McCain’s proposal is a reduction of the capital gains and dividend tax rate from 15% to 7.5%.
McCain’s chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin described the proposal as being:
“targeted at people who have been hurt by the recent financial crisis — seniors, savers, workers, people who are trying to get to college.”
The Tax Policy Center fired up their computers to crunch some numbers on the McCain dividend and capital gains tax cut. The results are summarized below: