1997, 30 year Treasury Bonds Fell to 5.58; traders were selling short to hedge against riskier bonds, treasuries rallied and spreads increased between bonds; Japanese bonds dropped opposite of the bet by LTCM.
Blame the Asian flu, IMF unresponsiveness, and Salomon Barney Smith abandonment of its arbitrage positions as causes for the evaporation of 4 billion dollars LTCM within months. LTCM was too big, possessing $128 billion in assets and $3.6 billion in the bank and 2/5 of money belonging to the owners. Notation derivates reaching leverage 100 to 1 preventing rapid sell off and bankruptcy out of question, for bankruptcy would have caused a world cascade economic crash and loses reaching above $1 trillion. Bankruptcy was not an option; LTCM was too big to fail and the Fed knew it. LTCM only chance was too secure money from warranties, loans, or a buy out; none of which in the end would save them. In the end, the Feds 16 banks would invest $250 million each with a total accumulation of $4 billion dollars rescuing LTCM and the partners would leave with relatively nothing in their pockets. How did smartest guys on Wall Street fail? How did the impossible happen?
1997, Indonesia, Rupiah dropped 85 percent as currency traders forced devaluation revealing a corrupt banking practices and overextension of bad credit; volatility rose to 27 percent.
1998 LTCM bet that no future recession would occur and believed the Bond margins would narrow. Instead, the world economy were experience new global forces as communism was breaking down, China's GNP was heating up, and East Germany was experiencing new economic freedoms. A U.S - 56 point margin increase on the swap, England - 45 point margin, and German - 20 point margin and LTCM was losing money on all of its markets. LTCM had previously negotiated a warrant by UBS and UBS was being seriously exposed while LTCM was claiming "Future expected returns are good" although Equity Volume was in trouble, Swap margins were increasing, and Treasuries were falling as investors fled to safer securities and as Treasuries were being bought up their rates dropping to 5.56.
With Indonesia falling - all eyes were turned to Russia. There was no rescue by the IMF for the Russian ruble. Shares in Europe and Turkey were weak and Venezuelans were buying dollars all the while swaps margins increased. Aug 21, the Dow fell 280 points and investors continued to prefer the safest bonds, the 30 year treasures, US swaps increased to 76 points, 20 points in one day, Britain swaps increased to 62 points and mortgage spreads spread to 121 points, high yield climbed to 276, and treasurers were at 13. LTCM lost $558 million in a single day, 15 percent of their capital. LTCM was certain the markets would correct rationally and the spreads converge. Losses accumulated faster because leverages increased. Additional $200 million in funding was requested from Merrill Lynch. Hedge funds were not considered a bank and so credit extension regulation was constrained. The drop in LTCM performance caused banks to tighten their credit lines to hedge funds. In fact, the hedge funds poor performance screamed default and banks demanded their entitlement to repayment. LTCM was very close to insolvency. Mattone told Meriwether, "when you're down by half, people figure you can go down all the way" and "your out". Aug 31, the DOW crashed 512 points, Hong Kong Authority stopped supporting local markets by buying local shares. For the month of Aug, LTCM had lost $1.9 billion, 45 percent of its equity capital, and still had $125 billion in derivative assets. Death was imminent, the leveraging could not be stopped, LTCM was immobilized by its size, and Bear was threatening to suspend trading. After reviewing LTCM books, Bear allowed LTCM trades and gave a harsh warning, if they dropped below $500 million all trades would halt.
Sep 10, LTCM experiences a sum lose of $500 million dollar for five days of trading. LTCM still has 7,000 derivative contracts totaling $1.4 trillion dollars.
In 1987, Alan Greenspan was appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserves. Greenspan did not totally understand hedge funds, they were fairly private, and the Fed had no authority over them. Greenspan was nervous about the credit lines extended too these funds. Some call the funds, banks. What were the hedge funds? What is a bank?
The New York Fed keeps in touch with its branches and they talk with private industry, so supposedly the Fed keeps a pulse on the private sector. The Fed has a trading desk and trades $450 billions in treasuries, buying and selling to affect the amount of available money supply. If the Fed buys treasures, this act increase money supply and gives banks more money for banks to loan, and interest rates decrease. If the Fed buys back treasures, this act decrease money supply and makes less available loanable money and interest rates rise.
The volatility of LTCM was rising because it was so vulnerable. LTCM was being pressured by Goldman as they continued buying down increasing spreads. Goldman exasperated the European bond market cutting apart LTCM.
Warren Buffet was a seemly friend but of no help to LTCM. Berkshire Hathaway made an offer: 250 million for $3.57 billion to stabilize the fund and all partners fired. Legal confusion forfeited the deal. The last thing the economy wanted was an economic meltdown, so the Fed offered a deal and the LTCM partners were out in the cold with tears in their eyes, a perfect model (Merton, Black, Scholes) and not enough liquid money to save them against the impossible.