Strange: Multiple Reports Of A JPMorgan Trader With An Epic Position In Credit Default Swaps

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Photo: Flickr

Not really sure what’s up with this…Both Bloomberg and WSJ have stories this evening about a credit derivatives trader in London, who works for JPMorgan, with a position so large he’s apparently rattling the market.

According to WSJ, the trader identified as Bruno Michel Iksil is so big, he’s being referred to as the ‘London Whale’.

Mr. Iksil has taken large positions for the bank in insurance-like products called credit-default swaps. Lately, partly in reaction to market movements possibly resulting from Mr. Iksil’s trades, some hedge funds and others have made heavy opposing bets, according to people close to the matter.

Those investors have been buying default protection on a basket of companies’ bonds using an index of the credit-default swaps, or CDS. Mr. Iksil has been selling the protection, placing his own bet that the companies won’t default.

And from Bloomberg, the same thing:

Investors complain that Iksil’s trades may be distorting prices, affecting bondholders who use the instruments to hedge hundreds of billions of dollars of fixed-income holdings. Analysts and economists also use the indexes to help gauge interest rates that companies must pay for new credit.

Though Iksil reveals little to other traders about his own positions, they say they’ve taken the opposite side of transactions and that his orders are the biggest they’ve encountered. Two hedge-fund traders said they have seen unusually large price swings when they were told by dealers that Iksil was in the market.

According to WSJ, Jamie Dimon is aware of the position in Iksil’s group, and that the bank is confident it won’t lose money in any situation.

Still, kind of weird two separate stories on one trader in one night. Looking to see where/if this develops. Right now we there are more questions than answers.

That being said, there are two quick thoughts:

One is that all of the sources on this seem to be from people trading against him/rivals. So presumably this kind of attention to his “book” if accurate is not very helpful. Nobody wants to be called a “whale.”

Second, in light of Jamie Dimon whining about regulation, any story about a guy with such a big position in CDS that the state of the portfolio goes all the way up to Dimon’s office is not helpful.

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