Just over a decade ago, as the S&P was hitting all time highs and there was a line around the block of 30-some year old hedge fund managers, desperate to put other people's money in various ultra risky investments just so they could pick a few excess bps of yield over Treasurys - a situation painfully familiar to what is going on now - Goldman had an epiphany: create new synthetic products that have huge convexity, i.e., provide little upside (such as a few basis points pick up in yield) versus unlimited downside, link them to the shittiest assets possible and sell them to gullible, yield-chasing idiots (collecting a transaction fee) while taking the other side of the trade (collecting a huge profit once everything crashes). The instruments, of course, were CDOs, and not long after Goldman sold a whole of them, the financial system crashed and needed a multi-trillion bailout from which the world has not recovered since.
Ten years later, Goldman is doing it again, only instead of targeting subprime mortgages, this time the bank has focused on quasi-insolvent European banks.
And just like right before the last financial crash, Goldman is once again allowing its clients to profit from the upcoming collapse, or as Bloomberg puts it, "less than a decade after the last major banking crisis, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are offering investors a new way to bet on the next one."
The trade in question is a total return swap, a highly levered product which is similar or a credit default swap but has some nuanced differences, which targets what are known as Tier 1 , or AT1 or "buffer" notes issued by European banks, and which usually are the first to get wiped out when there is even a modest insolvency event (just ask Banco Popular), let alone a full blown financial crisis.
Goldman and JPM are offering the derivative trades that enable investors to bet on or against high-risk bank bonds that financial regulators can wipe out if a lender runs into trouble. Other banks are also hoping to get in on the fun, and start making markets in the contracts, known as total-return swaps, or TRS, in the coming weeks, according to Max Ruscher, the London-based director of credit indexes at IHS Markit Ltd., which administers the benchmarks that the swaps are linked to.
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