Credit Derivatives, Macro Risks, and Systemic Risks

Tim Weithers
Economic Review, Vol. 92, No. 4, 2007

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This paper explores some bigger-picture risks associated with credit derivatives. Drawing a distinction between the market's perception of credit and "real credit" as reflected in the formal definition of a credit event, the author examines the well-documented macro drivers of credit generally.

The author next enumerates frequently cited concerns with credit derivatives: the exceedingly large notional trade in credit default swaps relative to outstanding debt, the increasing involvement of hedge funds in these products, and operational concerns that have surfaced in the past year or two.

The paper then considers the possibilities of associated systemic risk, looking at the issues of modeling and proper hedging, risk management, and valuation of new and sometimes complex credit derivative instruments.

Despite the inherent risks involved in credit derivatives, the market for these instruments continues to grow rapidly as people find them practical and beneficial for hedging risk, generating income, and distributing credit risk among a broader institutional base. Evolving market practices and safeguards should help establish a more efficient, transparent marketplace. Whether credit risk is best allocated outside of the traditional financial intermediaries remains an open question.

December 2007