What is $55 trillion between friends? Very little according to the CFTC. In perhaps the biggest under the radar news of the day - to be expected with every watercooler occupied by taper experts - the WSJ reports that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Wednesday that technical errors at two so-called swaps data repositories, which collect and supply regulators with transaction data, have led the CFTC to misreport the overall size of the swaps market by undercounting its size. Isn't it curious how all these "glitches" always work out in the favor of preserving market calm and confidence and away from spooking investors and speculators? Either way, a better question is how big was the so called undercounting? The answer: as large as $55 trillion!
Regulators aren't sure how much the repositories are undercounting. One CFTC official familiar with the matter said the discrepancy could be as high as $55 trillion, though another official said the figure is closer to $10 trillion once regulators cancel out certain transactions to prevent double counting.
One just has to laugh: the total US swaps market is what - roughly $400 trillion? So...just add enough notional to that number equal to the GDP of the entire world - or 4 times the size of US GDP - and call it a day. And in this environment somehow the Fed and other central planners are expected to have any clue what they are doing on a day to day basis?
Naturally this discovery makes a mockery of such transaprency enchancing initatives as Dodd-Frank.
The lack of clarity over the size of the market may undermine a key plank of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law aimed at bringing transparency to the opaque derivatives market. Swaps, which were at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis, are complex financial contracts that allow financial firms and their clients to hedge against risks or bet on an asset's value.
The CFTC has issued a number of rules to bring transparency to swaps trading so regulators can detect risks that could pose a threat to a firm or the financial system.
It would appear that those rules, uh, failed. It gets better:
The CFTC said in a footnote to its weekly swaps report that the largest data repository, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., "has informed us that due to a…technical coding issue, the notional values in the interest rate asset class have been understated." The agency also reported "a processing error" by a separate repository operated by CME Group Inc. A CME spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment. A CFTC official characterized the data problems as "growing pains." The agency formally began to report swaps data on a weekly basis just last month.
A technical coding issue with 12 zeroes?
Sure enough, the CFTC was quick to scapegoat someone for this epic clusterfuck - naturally, this someone was evil Congress for not spending even more money on the CFTC's toothlessness, something popularized recently by the recently departedBart Chilton, who more or less told gold traders that manipulation in the gold market will continue because the government just doesn't have the funds to stop it.
The official said the error also reflects the agency's chronic lack of resources. Just two employees at the agency are charged with putting together the weekly swaps report and it takes them 12 days to prepare the data for publication compared with three for another report the agency publishes. The agency is reviewing the matter and hopes to have firmer figures by next week's report, due Thursday.
In a statement, DTCC said: "We notified the CFTC immediately after we uncovered this matter and are working overtime to resolve these issues as soon as possible to ensure that the agency has timely access to the most accurate, highest quality market data."
Oh that's ok then, after all what's a little electronic $55,000,000,000,000 shuttling back and forth between insolvent counterparties.... oh hey look, over there everyone, the Fed just tapered!