The stock markets in the US dropped 1.5% today from the renewed sturm und drang over the potential Greek bond default. The Euro zone is trying to force a 50% haircut on the holders of Greek bonds in order to avoid their default, but the catch is that it has to be “voluntary”. If it’s not, it becomes an “actual” default and those CDOs (credit default swaps) start kicking in.
The problem with these insane contract arrangements is that they can be triggered by any significant down turn, not just by a major default. A down grade in a credit agency’s rating of a bank or a nation state will do it. They’re all done in secret, so we have no real idea what the risk really is It was a cascade of derivative failures tied to consumer debt, mostly home mortgages, that brought us within a hair’s breadth of ending civilization in 2008.