Increase Libor-OIS Spread Signals Worries With Financials

Posted by Bull Bear Trader | 6/04/2008 07:49:00 AM | , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

As discussed in a recent Bloomberg article, the spread between the 3-month Libor and the overnight index swap (OIS) rate, traded forward 3 months, is greater than similar expiring spreads. This recent movement in the spread is signaling that traders are concerned that banks will have difficulties obtaining cash to fund existing assets, as well as putting into question their ability to shore-up their balance sheets. In general, an increasing spread signals that funds are becoming less available. The recent activity appears to be driven more by traders leaving the short-term, closer to expire positions early over worries about Libor and its reliability.

The spread has averaged about 11 basis points over the last 10 years, but has ranged between 24 bps to 90 bps this year, and has gotten as high as 106 bps last December. The activity in the swaps market is worrisome, indicating that derivative traders do not feel that the sell-off of financial companies in March was the low, and that the worst is not behind us. Recent problems/concerns with Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and UBS, as well as the recent sell-offs in Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, and Citigroup are also highlighting concerns with the financial companies. As usual, this is not good news for the economy and the market as a whole as it needs a strong financial system to keep greasing the gears of expansion. It may be a long summer until the credit markets start showing a little more confidence.