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Capital Markets

Monoline insurers: CDS rally could prompt more monoline pain

Hedging hit may spread to other banks; BlackRock findings reinvigorate lawsuit

Morgan Stanley’s recent problems associated with the unwinding of its MBIA hedges (see Macaskill on markets: Morgan Stanley derailed by monoline exposureEuromoney April 2011) have raised questions over the extent of monoline exposure still lurking on the balance sheets of other banks. Although it must have seemed like a good idea at the time to take out insurance against what appeared to be the highly likely outcome of at least one monoline default during the last three years, the recent correction in monoline credit default swaps may have caught some other banks out. According to data provided by Markit, the cost of insuring against the default of MBIA Inc for five years fell from 2,848 basis points over Libor in November 2009 to a margin of 714bp by the end of February this year.

Morgan Stanley last month highlighted the peril for banks’ Q1 earnings when it unwound a substantial position in MBIA credit default swaps, estimated by equity analysts to have driven a trading loss of at least $300 million, but suspected by CDS traders to be much bigger.

The episode has raised questions as to whether other banks could be similarly exposed.

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