ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donald R. Van Deventer, Ph.d.

Don founded Kamakura Corporation in April 1990 and currently serves as its chairman and chief executive officer where he focuses on enterprise wide risk management and modern credit risk technology. His primary financial consulting and research interests involve the practical application of leading edge financial theory to solve critical financial risk management problems. Don was elected to the 50 member RISK Magazine Hall of Fame in 2002 for his work at Kamakura.

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CDS Trading Volume for 1,256 Reference Names From 2010 to June 26, 2015

07/01/2015 08:54 AM

In this report, we update the semi-annual Kamakura Corporation analysis of trading volume in single name credit default swaps as reported by the DepositoryTrust & Clearing Corporation (“DTCC”). This report takes on special significance because of the increased activity in the courts regardingpotential collusion in the credit default swap marketand because ofGreece’s failure to pay on its borrowings from the International Monetary Fund.

In today’s analysis, we look at 259 weeks of single name credit default swap trading volume data from the week ended July 16, 2010 through June 26, 2015 for 1,256 reference names. In all there were 216,056 weekly observations in the data set for which there was at least 1 trade for that reference name.

Conclusion: The dealer-dealer share of trades in the credit default swap warehouse of the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation has declined from 72% in January 2014 to 59% on June 26, 2015. This decline is certainly due in large part to “compression” of offsetting trades to reduce the capital needs of dealers. DTCC does not report on the dealer-dealer share of new trades, so we continue to use the share of dealer-dealer trades in the warehouse as a proxy for the dealer-dealer share of new trades. Even though the dealer-dealer share has declined, we continue to find very low “end user” trade volume for the overwhelming majority of the reference names. The exception is the trading of credit default swaps on sovereign reference names. The lack of volume in the single name credit default swap market has important implications for the profitability of dealers like JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS), Citigroup Inc. (C), Morgan Stanley (MS), and many other very large financial institutions.

The Analysis
Prior reports from Kamakura Corporation on overall volume in the single name credit default swap market have been published semi-annually beginning with the 103 weeks ended June 29, 2012 . The full set of semi-annual reports is available from info@kamakuraco.com and on www.kamakuraco.com.

In this analysis, we make use of the degree to which trading in single name credit default swaps was trading between two dealers as defined by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (“DTCC”) . In this study, we use the percentage of dealer-dealer trades still open in the DTCC trade warehouse as of June 26, 2015: 59.32%. The source of this ratio is table 1 on the website of DTCC.

We analyze CDS trading volume for the 1,256 reference names for which CDS trades were reported by DTCC during the 259 week period ended June 26, 2015. The weekly trade information is from the Section IV reports from DTCC. The data is described this way in the DTCC document “Explanation of Trade Information Warehouse Data” (May, 2011):

“Section IV (Weekly Transaction Activity) provides weekly activity where market participants were engaging in market risk transfer activity. The transaction types include new trades between two parties, a termination of an existing transaction, or the assignment of an existing transaction to a third party. Section IV excludes transactions which did not result in a change in the market risk position of the market participants, and are not market activity. For example, central counterparty clearing, and portfolio compression both terminate existing transactions and re-book new transactions or amend existing transactions. These transactions still maintain the same risk profile and consequently are not included as ‘market risk transfer activity.’”

As mentioned above, dealer-dealer volume is 59.32% in the single name credit default swap market and it would be nearly costless for dealers to inflate gross trading volume by trading among themselves. Instead, we focus on “end user” trading where at least one of the parties to a trade is not a dealer. Accordingly, we make the following adjustments to the weekly number of trades reported by DTCC for each reference name:

  1. We divide each weekly number of trades by 5 to convert weekly volume to an average daily volume for that week
  2. From that gross daily average number of trades, we classify 59.32% of trades as “dealer-dealer” trades, using the June 26, 2015 “dealer-dealer” share of trades in the DTCC trade warehouse.
  3. The remaining 40.68% is classified as daily average “non-dealer” volume, the focus of the reporting below.

Important note: the trading averages for each reference name are reported only for those weeks in which there were trades. In other words, the averages are conditional on trades taking place.

Daily Non-Dealer Trading Volume for 1,256 Reference Names
Before reporting on the 1,256 reference names in the DTCC warehouse, it is important to note a very important fact. Kamakura Risk Information Services’ default probability service produces daily default probabilities on 36,000 public firms around the world, including more than 5,600 in the United States. The DTCC weekly reports were designed to report the top 1,000 reference names ranked by daily credit default swap trading volume. In none of the 259 weeks, however, were there as many as 1,000 reference names reported by DTCC. In essence, the weekly reports contain every reference name in which there was non-zero trading volume in the DTCC. For all other reference names, then, trading volume was zero. This means that almost 34,800 of the public firms in KRIS had zero credit default swap trading volume over the entire 259 week period studied. We now turn to the 1,256 reference names for which there was at least 1 credit default swap trade during the 259 week period.

We first analyzed daily average non-dealer CDS trading volume by calculating the daily average number of contracts traded, as described above, for all 1,256 reference names for the entire 259 week period. The distribution of the reference names by non-dealer daily average trading volume contains some very surprising results, shown in this histogram of 259 week daily average of non-dealer contracts traded per day. Note that the graph only shows averages of 10 or less for easier viewing:

Among the surprising conclusions are these facts:

  • Only 2 reference names averaged 20 or more non-dealer trades per day
  • Only 8 reference names averaged 10 or more non-dealer trades per day
  • 56 reference names averaged 5 or more non-dealer trades per day
  • 99% of references names averaged less than 8.6 non-dealer trades per day
  • 95% of reference names averaged less than 4.7 non-dealer trades per day
  • 75% of reference names averaged less than 2.1 non-dealer trades per day
  • The median reference name averaged 1.1 non-dealer trades per day
  • The average reference name averaged 1.7 non-dealer trades per day

These trading volumes are very small to say the least, and it continues to be astonishing that financial journalists have not made the appropriate disclaimers when quoting “CDS prices” (most of which are quotes, not trades) for specific reference names. The chart below lists the top 25 reference names ranked by the non-dealer daily average number of trades over the 259 week period. We also display the 259 week daily average non-dealer notional principal traded. Please note that the non-dealer percentage of trades is only available for the entire warehouse of deals at DTCC. We have assumed the same non-dealer percentage applies to each reference name as a first approximation.

The most actively traded reference name was Brazil, for which gross weekly trading volume (including dealer-dealer trades) is graphed here in terms of contracts:

The weekly gross notional amount of trading in Brazil is graphed in the next chart:

In order to better understand the data, we next analyzed each week of data for all 1,256 reference names. In aggregate, there should be 259 x 1,256 = 325,304 “reference name-weeks” of data reported, but there was no data reported on 109,248 occasions because there were no trades in that week for that reference name. Dividing these 109,248 observations by 1,256 reference names shows that, on average over the 259 week period, there were 87 weeks for each reference name in which there were zero CDS trades. The daily average non-dealer trade volumes for the 216,056 weekly non-zero observations have the following distribution:

Again, this analysis allows us to draw some more surprising conclusions about all weekly trading in single name CDS for all 1,256 reference names, and a total of 325,304 potential observations:

  • 33.6% of the 325,304 potential observations showed zero trading volume.
  • Of the 216,056 non-zero observations, we found

99% of the observations showed less than 14.7 non-dealer trades per day
95% of the observations showed less than 7.2 non-dealer trades per da
75% of the observations showed less than 2.4 non-dealer trades per day
The median number of trades per day, excluding the “no trade” observations, was 1.0 contracts
The mean number of trades per day, excluding the “no trade” observations, was 2.0 contracts

For more information concerning this analysis of credit default swap trading volumes, please contact us at info@kamakuraco.com;

After reviewing the non-dealer trading volume reference name by reference name, we repeat the warning from our January 4, 2012 analysis: a sophisticated observer should assume that both traded CDS spreads and quoted spreads are highly likely to have been affected by collusion, as highlighted inthis recent BloombergTV video. Indeed, thefirst lawsuits in this regard were filed in 2013. Any other assumption could be hazardous to your wallet.

Donald R. van Deventer
Kamakura Corporation
Honolulu, June 30, 2015

Copyright ©2015 Donald van Deventer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donald R. Van Deventer, Ph.d.

Don founded Kamakura Corporation in April 1990 and currently serves as its chairman and chief executive officer where he focuses on enterprise wide risk management and modern credit risk technology. His primary financial consulting and research interests involve the practical application of leading edge financial theory to solve critical financial risk management problems. Don was elected to the 50 member RISK Magazine Hall of Fame in 2002 for his work at Kamakura.

Read More