The Coming Derivatives Crisis That Could Destroy The Entire Global Financial System

By George X Lampkin

Most people have no idea that Wall Street has become a gigantic financial casino.  The big Wall Street banks are making tens of billions of dollars a year in the derivatives market, and nobody in the financial community wants the party to end.  The word "derivatives" sounds complicated and technical, but understanding them is really not that hard.  

A derivative is essentially a fancy way of saying that a bet has been made.  Originally, these bets were designed to hedge risk, but today the derivatives market has mushroomed into a mountain of speculation unlike anything the world has ever seen before.  

Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market go from $600 trillion all the way up to $1.5 quadrillion.  Keep in mind that the GDP of the entire world is only somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 trillion.  The danger to the global financial system posed by derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them "financial weapons of mass destruction".  

Taxpayers To The Rescue, Again

Most people do not realize this, but derivatives were at the center of the financial crisis of 2008.

They will almost certainly be at the center of the next financial crisis as well.

For many, alarm bells went off the other day when it was revealed that Bank of America has moved a big chunk of derivatives from its failing Merrill Lynch investment banking unit to its depository arm.

So what does that mean?

This means that the investment bank's European derivatives exposure is now backstopped by U.S. taxpayers. Bank of America didn't get regulatory approval to do this, they just did it at the request of frightened counterparties. Now the Fed and the FDIC are fighting as to whether this was sound. The Fed wants to "give relief" to the bank holding company, which is under heavy pressure.

This is a direct transfer of risk to the taxpayer done by the bank without approval by regulators and without public input.

For now, the financial powers that be are trying to keep the casino rolling, but it is inevitable that at some point this entire mess is going to come crashing down.  When it does, we are going to be facing a derivatives crisis that really could destroy the entire global financial system.

Most people don't talk much about derivatives because they simply do not understand them.  Perhaps a couple of definitions would be helpful.

The following is how a recent Bloomberg article defined derivatives….

Derivatives are financial instruments used to hedge risks or for speculation. They’re derived from stocks, bonds, loans, currencies and commodities, or linked to specific events such as changes in the weather or interest rates.

The key word there is "speculation".  Today the folks down on Wall Street are speculating on just about anything that you can imagine.

The following is how Investopedia defines derivatives....

A security whose price is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is merely a contract between two or more parties. Its value is determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset. The most common underlying assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates and market indexes. Most derivatives are characterized by high leverage.

A derivative has no underlying value of its own.  A derivative is essentially a side bet.  Usually these side bets are highly leveraged.

At this point, making side bets has totally gotten out of control in the financial world.  Side bets are being made on just about anything you can possibly imagine, and the major Wall Street banks are making a ton of money from it.  This system is almost entirely unregulated and it is totally dominated by the big international banks.

The amount of money that we are talking about is absolutely staggering.  Graham Summers of Phoenix Capital Research estimates that the notional value of the global derivatives market is $1.4 quadrillion, and in an article for Seeking Alpha he tried to put that number into perspective….

A while back, the New York Times published an article entitled "A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives".  That article exposed the steel-fisted control that the "too big to fail" banks exert over the trading of derivatives.

So what institutions are represented at these meetings?

Well, according to the New York Times, the following banks are involved: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup.

Why do those same five names seem to keep popping up time after time?

Sadly, these five banks keep pouring money into the campaigns of politicians that supported the bailouts in 2008 and that they know will bail them out again when the next financial crisis strikes.

If you add up the value of every stock on the planet, the entire market capitalization would be about $36 trillion. If you do the same process for bonds, you’d get a market capitalization of roughly $72 trillion.

The notional value of the derivative market is roughly $1.4 QUADRILLION.

I realize that number sounds like something out of Looney tunes, so I’ll try to put it into perspective.

$1.4 Quadrillion is roughly:

- 40 TIMES THE WORLD’S STOCK MARKET.

- 10 TIMES the value of EVERY STOCK & EVERY BOND ON THE PLANET.

- 23 TIMES WORLD GDP.

When "the house" goes "bust", everybody loses.  The governments of the world could step in and try to bail everyone out, but the reality is that when the derivatives market comes totally crashing down there won't be any government on earth with enough money to put it back together again.

A horrible derivatives crisis is coming.

It is only a matter of time.

Stay alert for any mention of the word "derivatives" or the term "derivatives crisis" in the news.  When the derivatives crisis arrives, things will start falling apart very rapidly.

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