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Sovereign Credit Default Swaps And The European Commission Short Sale Ban, July 10, 2010 To June 26, 2015

|Includes: iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (EWZ), GGOV, PCY, RBL, SOVB

Trading volume in the bond and credit default swap markets, particularly the sovereign credit default swap market, is one of the key drivers of profit for major dealers like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Barclays Bank PLC, BNP Paribas (OTCPK:BNPZY), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Credit Suisse , Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), HSBC Holdings (NYSE:HSBC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (NYSE:RBS), and UBS AG (NYSE:UBS). This update adds some details to the Wall Street Journal study "Where did Europe's Sovereign CDS Trading Go?" which analyzes the European Commission's ban on the short sales of sovereign credit default swaps. That ban, announced on July 5, 2012, is explained in this text from the European Commission. The regulation became effective on November 1, 2012. The full text of the regulation is available from the European Commission website.

Conclusions: If there is sector of the credit default swap market which has shown decent trading activity over the last 259 weeks, it is the sovereign sector, primarily the top 8 reference names. Trading volume, however, has declined in a statistically significant way for 13 of the 14 most heavily traded Member States of the European Union. We explain how these conclusions were reached in what follows.

The Analysis of Sovereign Credit Default Swap Trading Volume

In this note, we analyze the trading volume for all sovereign reference names as reported by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. We also analyze the impact on volume of the European Commission's ban on short sales of sovereign debt. The European Commission regulation bans the short sale of credit default swaps on issuers that meet the following definition in the act (Chapter 1, Article 2, section 1):

"(NYSE:D) 'sovereign issuer' means any of the following that issues debt instruments:

  1. The Union;
  2. A Member State, including a government department, an agency, or a special purpose vehicle of the Member State;
  3. In the case of a federal Member State, a member of the federation;
  4. A special purpose vehicle for several Member States;
  5. An international financial institution established by two or more Member States which has the purpose of mobilizing funding and provide financial assistance to the benefit of its members that are experiencing or threatened by severe financing problems; or
  6. The European Investment Bank"

The Member States of the European Union are listed here along with their year of entry into the Union:

  1. Austria (1995)
  2. Belgium (1952)
  3. Bulgaria (2007)
  4. Croatia (2013)
  5. Cyprus (2004)
  6. Czech Republic (2004)
  7. Denmark (1973)
  8. Estonia (2004)
  9. Finland (1995)
  10. France (1952)
  11. Germany (1952)
  12. Greece (1981)
  13. Hungary (2004)
  14. Ireland (1973)
  15. Italy (1952)
  16. Latvia (2004)
  17. Lithuania (2004)
  18. Luxembourg (1952)
  19. Malta (2004)
  20. Netherlands (1952)
  21. Poland (2004)
  22. Portugal (1986)
  23. Romania (2007)
  24. Slovakia (2004)
  25. Slovenia (2004)
  26. Spain (1986)
  27. Sweden (1995)
  28. United Kingdom (1973)

On June 30, 2015 Kamakura Corporation reviewed trading volume in credit default swaps for 1,256 reference names reported by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation and found that only 8 reference names in the world had averaged more than 10 or non-dealer trades per day in the 259 weeks ended on June 26, 2015. In this note, we look at weekly credit default swap trading volume for sovereigns among those 1,256 reference names. This report is an update of the Kamakura sovereign credit default swap trading volume analysis of January 9, 2015. We continue to find that a small set of sovereigns leads trading volume in single name credit default swaps: Spain, Italy, Brazil, and France. Beyond those names, trading volume drops off rapidly.

The weekly trade information we analyze 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 discussed in the January 9, 2015 report, our emphasis is not on gross trading volume. As of June 26, 2015, 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 sovereign reference name:

  1. We divide each weekly number of trades by 5 to convert weekly trading volume to an average daily volume for that week.
  1. From that gross daily average number of trades, we classify 59.32% of trades as "dealer-dealer" trades, using the average "dealer-dealer" share of trades in the DTCC trade warehouse on June 26, 2015.
  1. 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 Sovereign Reference Names

Of the 1,256 reference names for which DTCC reported credit default swap trades in the 259 week period, only 60 were sovereigns. There were no new sovereign names traded in the last 26 weeks. Twenty-six of the 28 Member States of the European Union have had some credit default swap trading during the 259 weeks ended June 26, 2015. Those members of the European Union are highlighted in bold:

ABU DHABI

ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT

ARGENTINE REPUBLIC

BANQUE CENTRALE DE TUNISIE

BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

CZECH REPUBLIC

DUBAI

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY

FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL

FRENCH REPUBLIC

HELLENIC REPUBLIC

IRELAND

JAPAN

KINGDOM OF BELGIUM

KINGDOM OF DENMARK

KINGDOM OF MOROCCO

KINGDOM OF NORWAY

KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA

KINGDOM OF SPAIN

KINGDOM OF SWEDEN

KINGDOM OF THAILAND

KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS

LEBANESE REPUBLIC

MALAYSIA

NEW ZEALAND

PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA

PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC

REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA

REPUBLIC OF CHILE

REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA

REPUBLIC OF CROATIA

REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA

REPUBLIC OF FINLAND

REPUBLIC OF HUNGARY

REPUBLIC OF ICELAND

REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA

REPUBLIC OF ITALY

REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN

REPUBLIC OF KOREA

REPUBLIC OF LATVIA

REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

REPUBLIC OF PANAMA

REPUBLIC OF PERU

REPUBLIC OF POLAND

REPUBLIC OF SLOVENIA

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

REPUBLIC OF TURKEY

ROMANIA

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

SLOVAK REPUBLIC

SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM

STATE OF ISRAEL

STATE OF QATAR

UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND

UNITED MEXICAN STATES

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

No credit default swap trades were reported in the 259 weeks ending June 26, 2015 for the other 124 sovereigns which have default probabilities in Kamakura Risk Information Services sovereign default service.

Analysis of Daily Average Non-Dealer Trades Per Day

We first analyze the 259 week averages for the 60 sovereigns for which CDS trading volume was greater than zero during the 259 weeks ending June 26, 2015. The daily average non-dealer trading volume, calculated as described above, was distributed as follows:

The conclusions that can be drawn from this table are summarized here:

  1. 75% of the 60 sovereigns averaged less than 6.8 non-dealer CDS trades per day.
  2. 95% of the 60 sovereigns averaged less than 18.3 non-dealer CDS trades per day.
  3. 99% of the 60 sovereigns averaged less than 26.8 non-dealer CDS trades per day.
  4. The average 259 week daily average number of non-dealer trades per day for the 60 sovereigns was 4.7 trades per day
  5. The median 259 week daily average number of non-dealer trades per day was 1.8 trades per day

In spite of the European Commission ban on short sales, we conclude that trading volume for the most active sovereigns is higher than it is for the most active corporations, which is only logical given that such sovereigns issue more debt than the most active corporations. The correlation between trading volume and debt outstanding is weak, however, with the United States well down on the ranking of trade volume in spite of the high volume of U.S. debt outstanding.

Analyzing Trading Volume in Aggregate

We now analyze all 259 weeks of data, not just the average over that period, for all 60 sovereigns for which DTCC reported non-zero trade volume. There were 13,475 actual observations (compared to a maximum potential number of observations equal to 15,540 = 60 x 259) observations on CDS trading volume for these 60 sovereigns, and there were no trades for 2,065 observations, 13.3% of the total potential observations. The distribution of non-dealer trades per day over the 13,475 non-zero observations is summarized in the following chart:

One can draw the following conclusions over 13,475 non-zero weekly observations:

  1. 75% of the observations showed 6.1 non-dealer trade per day or less
  2. 95% of the observations showed 21.7 non-dealer trades per day or less
  3. 99% of the observations showed 42.3 non-dealer trades per day or less
  4. There were only 78 observations that showed more than 50 non-dealer trades per day or more
  5. The highest volume week was March 14, 2014, during which the Russian Federation traded 137 non-dealer trades per day.

While the sovereign CDS market shows more non-dealer CDS daily average volume than the corporate market, trading is concentrated in a relatively few names. 124 sovereigns had no CDS trades at all over the 259 week period studied.

Detailed Information on CDS Trading Volume by Individual Reference Name

The weekly, daily, and daily non-dealer trading volume for the top 25 sovereign names is given here, ranked by the daily non-dealer average number of trades:

The number of contracts traded for the volume leader, Brazil, is shown in this graph:

The notional principal of these contracts traded on Brazil is shown in this graph of the 259 weeks of trading ended June 26, 2015:

Analysis of the Impact of the European Commission Short Sale Ban

Unlike the Wall Street Journal analysis cited above, our focus is solely on single name credit default swap trading in sovereign reference names. In analyzing whether or not the European Commission ban on short sales of sovereign debt has reduced credit default swap trading in European Union Member States, the task is complicated by the randomness in trading volume both before and after the ban took effect November 1, 2012. This updated analysis is particularly timely given the current crisis in Greece. Accordingly, we perform the normal tests of statistical significance in order to determine whether a change in the mean level of non-dealer daily average contracts traded before and after the ban is statistically significant or not (i.e. the change could be due simply to the "noise" in trading volume over time). The results of the exercise are reported in this table:

We reach the following conclusions:

  1. Trading volume, as measured by daily average non-dealer credit default swaps traded, declined for 20 of the 26 European Union Member States on which there was credit default swap trading.
  2. This decline in trading volume was statistically significant at the 95% confidence level for 13 of the 20 Member States showing a trading decrease
  3. 6 of the 26 member states actually showed a trading volume increase, and another 7 member firms showed a trading decrease that was not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.
  4. 13 of the 14 member states with the heaviest overall credit default swap trading volume showed a statistically significant decrease in trading volume.

The graph below shows the gross weekly number of trades by all counterparties in the Kingdom of Spain for the 259 weeks ended June 26, 2015. The decrease in volume after November 1, 2012 is quite striking.

The next graph shows the total amount of notional principal of credit default swap trading in the Kingdom of Spain over the same 259 week period.

Again, the decrease in trading volume after the November 1, 2012 ban took effect is plain to see even without the statistical backup, although the increase in volume in mid-2014 is sizable.

Conclusions

If there is sector of the credit default swap market which has shown decent trading activity over the last 259 weeks, it is the sovereign sector, primarily the top 8 reference names. Trading volume, however, has declined in a statistically significant way for 13 of the 14 most heavily traded Member States of the European Union. Only time will tell if the trading volume in the sovereign sector will regain its vitality or languish in the same "zombie state" as most other sectors of the single name credit default swap market.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.