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The Chinese say, May you live in interesting times. This year the market started out the year with a few truly interesting backdrops. Among them a colossal trading loss that shook Société Générale to its core.
Did you know that Jerome Kerviel’s was the largest trading loss in history?
At least so far!
To provide some context about loss, here are the top 10 trading losses ever. At least, it can provide you with some perspective about yours
Notice how all, except for one, were a result of trading in derivatives? The only equity loss big enough to make it on the board was $0.8 (by Friedhelm Breuers from WestLB, Germany) which ties for the last position.
Lesson? Trading derivatives is like juggling running chainsaws which also happen to be on fire. Unless you know what you’re doing, it will get messy.
Sure, these losses look unreal but each and every one of them started out as a small loss. The only reason why they are up on the board is they were allowed to balloon into grotesque proportions. So it is with the losses of us mere mortals. If we allow our convictions to overrule our discipline, we’re headed towards the same fate.
If anything, such gigantic losses should, for once and for all, put a damper on conspiracy theories of market manipulation. After all, if someone can’t bully a market with a few billion, then the market is indeed bigger than anyone and everyone.
|$7.1||Société Générale||European index futures||2008|
|$6.5||Amaranth Advisors||Gas futures||2006|
|$4.6||Long Term Capital Management||Interest rate and equity derivatives||1998|
|$2.6||Sumitomo Corporation||Copper futures||1996|
Wolfgang Flöttl and Helmut Elsner
|$2.5||BAWAG||Currency and interest swaps||2006|
|$1.7||Orange County||Interest rate derivatives||1994|
|$1.4||Barings Bank||Nikkei futures||1995|
|$0.8||Bank of Montreal||Natural Gas Options||2007|
What lessons do you draw from this?
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