The $700 trillion elephant
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of MarketWatch (Wall Street Journal Digital Network)
Posted: March 14th, 2009
There's a $700 trillion elephant in the room and it's time we found out how much it really weighs on the economy. Derivative contracts total about three-quarters of a quadrillion dollars in "notional" amounts, according to the Bank for International Settlements. These contracts are tallied in notional values because no one really can say how much they are worth. But valuing them correctly is exactly what we should be doing because these comprise the viral disease that has infected the financial markets and the economies of the world. Try as we might to salvage the residential real estate market, it's at best worth $23 trillion in the U.S. We're struggling to save the stock market, but that's valued at less than $15 trillion. And we hope to keep the entire U.S. economy from collapsing, yet gross domestic product stands at $14.2 trillion. Compare any of these to the derivatives market and you can easily see that we are just closing the windows as a tsunami crashes to shore. The total value of all the stock markets in the world amounts to less than $50 trillion, according to the World Federation of Exchanges. To be sure, the derivatives market is international. But much of the trouble we're in began with contracts "derived" from the values associated with U.S. residential real estate market. These contracts were engineered based on the various assumptions tied to those values. Few know what derivatives are worth. I spoke with one derivatives trader who manages billions of dollars and she said she couldn't even value her portfolio because "no one knows anymore who is on the other side of the trade."
Note: Banks and financial firms deemed "too big to fail" were bailed out worldwide at taxpayers' expense. But what will happen if losses in the derivatives market skyrocket? No government in the world has the resources to save financial corporations from a collapse in their derivatives trading. For a treasure trove of reports from reliable sources detailing the amazing control of major banks over government and society, click here.