Bloomberg News

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Credit Risk Soars to Highest Since 2008

October 03, 2011

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The cost to protect the debt of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. surged to the highest levels since the weeks after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy as concern intensified that Europe’s debt crisis will infect the global banking system.

Contracts on Morgan Stanley, the New York-based owner of the world’s largest retail brokerage, soared 92 basis points to a mid-price of 583 basis points as of 4:30 p.m. in New York, the highest since October 2008, according to London-based data provider CMA. Those on Goldman Sachs increased 65 basis points to a mid-price of 395.

Traders pushed the cost of protecting banks and U.S. companies higher after German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble opposed moves to increase the scale of the euro rescue fund, complicating efforts to prevent a Greek default. Swaps on Bank of America Corp. jumped to a record and a measure of U.S. corporate credit risk rose to the most since May 2009.

“It’s such a difficult situation for the markets here,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi UFJ in New York, said in a telephone interview. “People are primed for bad news. They’re quick to believe the worst.”

The Markit CDX North America Investment Grade Index, which investors use to hedge against losses or speculate on creditworthiness, climbed to the highest since May 2009, adding 6.7 basis points to a mid-price of 150.9 basis points as of 5:10 p.m. in New York, according to index administrator Markit Group Ltd.

The index, which typically rises as investor confidence deteriorates and falls as it improves, has increased from 136.2 on Sept. 27 as concerns mount that Europe’s fiscal imbalances are worsening.

Mitsubishi Commitment

Five-year credit-default swaps tied to Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America’s senior debt climbed 33 basis points 457, according to CMA, a unit of CME Group Inc. that compiles prices quoted by dealers in the privately negotiated market.

Contracts on American International Group Inc. surged 76 to 545, the highest since May 2010, CMA prices show.

The cost to protect Morgan Stanley’s debt has risen from 305 basis points on Sept. 15 and is at the highest level since October 13 2008, four weeks after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy. It reached as high as the equivalent of 1,300 basis points on Oct. 10 of that year, CMA prices show. It now costs $583,000 annually for five years for every $10 million of debt insured.

‘Dirty Word’

“Investment banks are largely black-box businesses, so in a world where risk is a dirty word, they are going to be punished in the capital markets,” Joel Levington, a managing director of corporate credit at Brookfield Investment Management Inc. in New York, said in an e-mail.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. said today it’s “firmly committed” to its long-term strategic alliance with New York-based Morgan Stanley. The Tokyo-based bank said it was reiterating its commitment to the firm “in response to recent market volatility.”

“The special relationship we have formed remains core to our global business strategy,” Mitsubishi UFJ said in the statement.

Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value if a borrower fails to meet its obligations, less the value of the defaulted debt. A basis point equals $1,000 annually on a contract protecting $10 million of debt.

--With assistance from Zeke Faux and Michael J. Moore in New York. Editors: Pierre Paulden, Alan Goldstein

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Childs in New York at mchilds5@bloomberg.net; Shannon D. Harrington in New York at sharrington6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Goldstein at agoldstein5@bloomberg.net


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