Credit-default swaps are an unfairly maligned derivative

Vultures, rats and maggots are often the focus of disgust, less because of anything for which they can be blamed, and more because of the conditions with which they are associated. Death, disease and squalor carry a stigma that is hard to shake. Something similar is true of credit-default swaps, financial instruments that make headlines during market turmoil and economic misery.

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When charts of credit-default swap prices begin to crop up in financial research it is invariably a bad sign. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a burst of activity, with conditions in both Kyiv and Moscow triggering swaps and thus interest in the instruments. More recently, prices for European banks have jumped. The cost of a five-year credit-default swap for Credit Suisse bonds has surged to twice the level reached in the market…

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