, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1-31
Date: 04 Dec 2008

How Much Do Banks Use Credit Derivatives to Hedge Loans?

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Before the credit crisis that started in mid-2007, it was generally believed by top regulators that credit derivatives make banks sounder. In this paper, we investigate the validity of this view. We examine the use of credit derivatives by US bank holding companies with assets in excess of one billion dollars from 1999 to 2005. Using the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Bank Holding Company Database, we find that in 2005 the gross notional amount of credit derivatives held by banks exceeds the amount of loans on their books. Only 23 large banks out of 395 use credit derivatives and most of their derivatives positions are held for dealer activities rather than for hedging of loans. The net notional amount of credit derivatives used for hedging of loans in 2005 represents less than 2% of the total notional amount of credit derivatives held by banks and less than 2% of their loans. We conclude that the use of credit derivatives by banks to hedge loans is limited because of adverse selection and moral hazard problems and because of the inability of banks to use hedge accounting when hedging with credit derivatives. Our evidence raises important questions about the extent to which the use of credit derivatives makes banks sounder.

We are grateful to Jim O’Brien and Mark Carey for discussions and to participants at the annual FDIC conference in 2006 for comments. Minton acknowledges the Dice Center of Financial Research and Fisher College of Business for financial support. This paper is a revision of an earlier paper titled “How much do banks use credit derivatives to reduce risk?”