Futures market clearinghouses are intermediaries that make large volume trading between anonymous parties feasible. During the October 1987 market crash rumors spread that a major clearinghouse might fail. This paper presents estimates of three measures of the default exposure on the popular S&P500 futures contract traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. We estimate the traditional summary statistic for risk exposure: the tail probabilities that the change in the futures price exceeds the margin. And we estimate two economic measures of the risk--the expected value of the payoffs in the tails and expected value of the payoffs in the tails conditional on landing in the tail. The economic measures of risk reveal exposure from low probability large payoff events--like a crash--that does no...
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